Young footballers from Wimbledon moved a step closer to making their Wembley dreams a reality by winning the AFC Wimbledon Girls Cup on Tuesday.
Ursuline High School edged out Kingston Grammar School 2-1 to secure a place in the area finals of the national competition, which has a participation of over 6,000 girls.
There was a bumper turn-out for Tuesday’s event, organised by the AFC Wimbledon Foundation, with 140 players from 17 schools taking part in the event for year seven and eight girls.
Ursuline High School’s PE teacher Rachel Corrigan said it will be an honour for her team to represent the club in the next round.
“There has been some really outstanding individual performances and team play from our girls. I am really happy for them,” said Rachel. “We’ve never got this far in one of these competitions and we will be very proud to be wearing the AFC Wimbledon badge in the regional finals. We have got a really positive connection with AFC Wimbledon and it would be nice to get our hands on another trophy!”
Kasha Petit, AFC Wimbledon Foundation’s female football development officer, plays football for QPR Ladies, and she is aiming to boost participation levels with the Women’s World Cup coming up next year.
“I started playing when I was about this age, I realised that football was for me, and I wanted to carry it on,” said Kesha. “My football journey basically started at the same level that these girls are playing. I am still playing now, so it will be great if I can help build that pathway so that girls can keep playing.
“There has been some brilliant football played at our Girls Cup, including from those that haven’t played for teams so far. Building towards the Women’s World Cup next year, one of the challenges is to increase participation and build a pathway for girls to keep playing the game as they get older.”
Kelly Mason, PE teacher at Graveney School in Wandsworth, said: “It’s good that the girls are getting the opportunity here, as usually this type of thing is aimed at the boys. It’s fantastic that the girls are getting involved and it provides an opportunity for them to get scouted and maybe play for different teams as they progress from playing schools football. This year is the first time that we’ve been able to bring two teams. The club help if there are girls we want to put forward for teams, so the opportunities are there. I used to play for AFC Wimbledon when I was younger, so I have a big football background. I think it motivates the girls that they can see lots of people are playing the game and they have players that they can look up to.”
The EFL Girls Cup comprises of a six-a-side competition for Under-13 girls that culminates in a grand final prior to the Checkatrade Trophy Final at Wembley Stadium. The road to the finals begin when each of the 72 EFL clubs organise a local competition for all schools wishing to take part. Each winning school of the local competition then represents their club in the North or South Area Finals, in a bid to reach the Regional Finals. The two teams who are victorious in the North and South Regional Finals proceed to play at the Grand Final at Wembley in March.