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  Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 17:04 GMT 18:04 UK
Marley ready for final fling
Women's captain Mo Marley
Marley (right) sees a bright future for England
By BBC Sport Online's women's football correspondent Tony Leighton

England women's team captain Mo Marley is aiming to enjoy the first and what she admits could be the last major tournament of her international career.

The 34-year-old Everton central defender did not break into the national team until 1995, making her debut against Italy in the first match which followed England's quarter-final defeat by Germany at that year's World Cup.

That was England's last appearance in either of women's football's top two tournaments, Marley and her colleagues having in the meantime missed out on qualification for the 1997 European Championships and the 1999 World Cup.


Women's football is still essentially an amateur game and if we can't enjoy the occasion there's something wrong
Mo Marley
Now the experienced and highly respected defender, who is also the Girls and Women's Football Development Officer for Merseyside, is about to realise her biggest footballing ambition.

Talking at England's pre-tournament training camp in the ancient East German city of Erfurt, the team's headquarters for their group matches against Russia, Sweden and Germany, Marley said: "I can't wait for our opening game against Russia on Sunday.

"Playing for England these last six years has been great and being made captain was fantastic, but playing in this competition will be the pinnacle of my career.

"A tournament as big as this can be a once in a lifetime event for a lot of players and I realise that, at the age of 34, that could certainly be the case with me.

"But despite the importance of the competition and the pressure there might be involved, I'm going into these big games with a smile on my face and determined to make the most of it.

England's women prepare
The future's so bright...
"I also believe the younger girls in the squad should be going into the tournament with the same attitude. Okay, we are playing at the highest level and there's a lot at stake, but women's football is still essentially an amateur game and if we can't enjoy the occasion there's something wrong.

"Yes, we want to win our games and yes, we want to become the best team in the world - but you have to enjoy it as you try to achieve those objectives, because it's my belief that the more you enjoy it, the more successful you will be."

Marley's seemingly Corinthian approach to Euro 2001 belies a passion to lead her side to success in the tournament - a passion that goes far deeper and far wider than possibly even winning the competition.

She sees the Championships as not only a great advert for women's football but also a promotional tool for the game, an event which can coax young girls into taking up what is already the fastest growing sport in the UK.

Raising awareness

She said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for us to put the England women's team on the map and get more and more youngsters interested in the game.

"When I was a girl starting to play the game you never heard of the England team, but youngsters these days are more aware of us and a successful national team can really highlight the women's game.

"We can hopefully inspire girls to take up football and make progress in the game, we can give them role models and something to aspire to.

"That process is already happening and we can expand it by doing well here in Germany. None of the other seven teams taking part in the competition seem to think we are going to make an impact, but that could work to our advantage.

"If we play to our ability in our three group games then I feel we can finish in the top two to qualify for the semi-finals - and that would be a tremendous achievement in itself."


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