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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 June, 2005, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Excitement over too fast
By Jacqui Oatley
BBC Radio Five Live commentator

England manager Hope Powell consoles Faye White
England boss Hope Powell consoles Faye White after defeat to Sweden

Lower than a worm's tummy in an underground bunker - that's how we all feel after England's early exit from Euro 2005.

The players, the coaching staff, the fans, the Football Association and the journalists, who have followed the team through their impressive build-up to the tournament, all believed they could reach the semi-finals.

As it turned out, they finished bottom of the group, yet just one goal away from winning it.

Women's football has never enjoyed such public recognition, with the largest crowds in European history for competitive fixtures and audiences of up to three million on BBC Two.

Imagine the atmosphere at Preston or Warrington had the host nation reached the semi-finals.

In fact, it's best not to, it won't make you feel any better.

On a personal note, I'm relieved to have commentated on my first three football matches on national radio.

It was something I never quite believed would happen, especially when a BBC local radio sports editor warned me a few years ago that it would be an incredibly brave decision to put a woman commentator on air.

Brave or mad? We'd soon find out.

The afternoon of Sunday 5 June prior to the Finland game was the most nerve-racking of my life (and probably my boss' life too).

Even so, I was confident I knew what I was talking about as I'd done far more homework than was strictly healthy.

Tapping up foreign journalists for videos of their national sides, searching for international players' pictures on the internet so I could memorise their names and faces, as well as phoning various players, coaches, journalists and associations around the world to get a broader impression of the women's game as a whole.

An adrenaline rush led to slightly blurred vision and the players looked like newborn gnats

So I knew the name of the Finnish right-back's goldfish but would I do an impression of it when Sport on Five presenter Arlo White handed over to me for commentary?

Arlo was giving the game the big build-up and was about to introduce me.

Out of the corner of my left eye I spotted light pouring through a big hole in the wall behind me - it was the press box exit.

There was still time to leg it. I had a clear run and wouldn't even need to ask anyone to move.

Then it dawned on me it would be rather unprofessional to run away so I decided to stay and do the commentary after all.

It was either that or return to my old job in intellectual property. I was definitely staying put.

The worst part was the first five minutes of the game when an adrenaline rush led to slightly blurred vision and the players looked like newborn gnats.

As I blinked furiously I felt like I was coming round from a general anaesthetic.

But the nerves quickly subsided and I remembered that talking about football was actually my favourite pastime.

After that I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the game as well as the other two England group matches, despite the crushing disappointment of defeat.

As for the reaction, I've been pleasantly surprised so far (touch wood as there's still time for a good slating), bearing in mind that female commentators don't exactly outnumber the men.

I was expecting plenty of criticism for daring to tread where women tend not to bother.

Maybe it's not a big deal in this day and age or maybe people are just being polite.

Or perhaps they were all watching the games on BBC Two accompanied by Steve Wilson's fine commentary.

Yes, that would explain it.




SEE ALSO
FA hails Euro 2005 as big success
13 Jun 05 |  Women's Euro 2005
Powell upbeat despite Euro exit
12 Jun 05 |  Women's Euro 2005
England Women 0-1 Sweden Women
11 Jun 05 |  Women's Euro 2005
Denmark Women 2-1 England Women
07 Jun 05 |  Women's Euro 2005
England 3-2 Finland
05 Jun 05 |  Women's Euro 2005


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