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Girls making their mark in football
Around the Academy:

Kelly Smith plays professionally in USA
England's Kelly Smith now plays in America
Earlier this year figures released by the Football Association highlighted that football is now the most popular female sport in England.

Almost 62,000 girls and women are now affiliated to clubs playing competitive matches.

Most encouragingly for those looking to further develop the women's game was the fact that the area showing the biggest growth was in the under-14 age group.

The past nine years have seen the number of registered teams in that age group rise from 80 to 2451, catering for almost 42,000 players.

And with major funding now developing the game at grass-roots level the plan is to see that growth continue.

Karen Walker in action for England
Karen Walker is the England skipper
"This brings women's football on to a higher level and I am very excited about the future of the game," said FA chief executive Adam Crozier.

England captain Karen Walker, who has represented her country on more than 70 occasions, got into the game just by following her older brother everywhere.

She played with the lads at school, but recognises that there has never been a better time for girls to get involved.

"It's massive now," Karen told the Academy. "You didn't have any opportunities whatsoever when I was at school.

"I was just lucky that I knew someone that played for Doncaster Belles - if I hadn't known her I wouldn't have even known that ladies play football.

"Now it's on adverts, it's on the television and it's everywhere."

There is still some catching up to do on the world stage though.

Norway (75,000 players) and Germany (169,826) are both well ahead on the European front, but the US, where the women's game is far in advance of the men's, leads the way.

A staggering 7.8 million girls and women play the game in the States, where there is also a full-time professional league.

England striker Kelly Smith has already made her mark playing for Philadelphia Charge, showing that the English girls really are blossoming.

Open Quote
Women's football is massive now
Close Quote
England skipper Karen Walker
Karen Walker
England captain

Get involved
England: Call the FA hotline on 0845 310 8555 to find your local club
Wales: Technical Director Mark Aizlewood, FAW Football in the Community Trust, 3 Cooper's Yard, Curran Road, Cardiff, CF1 5DF Tel: 02920 223373 or email:
Scotland: Scottish Women's Football Association
Maureen McGonigle
Executive administrator
Hampden Park
G42 9DF
Tel: (0141) 616-6091
N Ireland: David McVeigh
Irish Football Association
20 Windsor Avenue
Tel: 028 90 669458
Fax: 028 90 667620

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