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England team coach Hope Howell
"We are just going to take each game as it comes"
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banner Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Girls plea to be taken seriously
Marieanne Spacey
Spacey wants women's football taken seriously
By BBC Sport Online's Andrew Warshaw

Two years ago, on a baking hot afternoon in Pasadena, more than 100,000 spectators poured into the local stadium to watch a soccer match.

A women's soccer match.

It was the final of the 1999 World Cup between the host nation, the United States, and China. The crowd were mostly under 30 and the atmosphere was electric.

It is of sport's supreme ironies that while the men may lag way behind Europe in terms of technique and success, the United States are leading the way when it comes to the women's game.

This fact was not lost on the England team when they flew to Germany for the forthcoming European Championships that begin at the weekend.

It is a sad fact of life that women's soccer in England is treated, for the most part, with a mixture of cynicism and downright ridicule.

While Norway, Germany and other European nations strive to follow America's lead, the United Kingdom is still locked in a time warp of macho attitudes towards girls playing the national sport.

"If you ask what my ultimate dream is, it would be to be taken seriously," said Marieanne Spacey, England's most capped international.

"We are at last getting the kind of coaching that this level deserves. Potentially this is the squad that can really go places."

But will anyone be watching?

Unlike some of their European counterparts, women's football in England, even at top club level, often plays to crowds approaching the proverbial two men a dog.

Sometimes it's just the dog.

Spacey, who made her England debut 17 years ago, said attitudes had to change to mirror the progress being made by the national team on the field.

England may well lose all three games in Germany and return with nothing to show for qualifying but just to have got there is regarded as a major coup by those in the know.

It's time, said Spacey, that the media and public alike understood that.

"There's a major problem with women's sport in this country, not just football," she said. "Some people don't think we should be allowed to play."

"But my dream for the future would be to be able to go shopping and be recognised by everyone.

"Not because of the fame but because it would mean the women's game has been put on the map."

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