Laura Montgomery and Carol Anne Stewart are the founders of Glasgow City FC, the most dominant force in Scottish women’s football. In 1998, fed up with the lack of facilities, faith and foundation on which women’s football was floundering they decided to create their own club. (The environment was sexist, discriminatory and for the most part scathing and disparaging of the notion that women could play football, or even had the right to do so.)
In realising their ambition, they didn’t so much set out to live a dream, they attacked their objective with a dogged determination to succeed, not just against the odds but in spite of them. In short, they weren’t prepared to tolerate the blatant inequality that exists in society, a seemingly impenetrable stench that was preventing them from realising their ambitions to play competitive football in an environment that was favourable to them and their requirements.
Fed up with “you cannae do that”, they just went ahead and did it.
Progress to the top flight of Scottish women’s football. Tick. Dominate the Scottish game. Tick. Develop a team with the talent, skill and ambition to play in Europe. Tick. Develop a team that can earn respect in Europe. Super tick.
In a remarkably short period of time Glasgow City FC has gone from strength to impressive strength. Today, they face Paris Saint Germaine in the first leg of the quarter final of the prestigious Champions League. The club is the first club in Scotland, male or female, to reach this stage of the tournament. An extraordinary achievement for an amateur club.
Oh yeah. I didn’t mention that bit. This is a club with very little funds that bolsters its financial fragility with hard work, commitment, stamina, resilience, incredible talent, and support from an expanding network of believers who have bought into what they do. A resounding belief that they can and they will. And, they absolutely have.
Cas and Laura have been extraordinary but they haven’t fought this battle alone. They aren’t the first to campaign for women’s rights to a women’s game. Incredible activists have come before them, forthright and determined pioneers stretching as far back as 1628, role models such as Lady Florence Dixie, Nettie Honeyball and Nancy “Cannonball” Thompson (you can learn a wee bit more about the scale of the achievements of these incredible women in the film Honeyballers). They’re also not alone in a contemporary context.
The women’s league in Scotland is strengthening and committed to developing the game. The national A side is on the edge of progression to elite level competition as Scottish players capitalise on the professional opportunities embraced elsewhere in Europe and America that are allowing our talented players to play full time at the top level. Alas, in an ideal world, such opportunities would be available here too…
I’m not, however, writing this as a history lesson, or even as a call to encourage you to develop an interest in women’s football. The campaign for recognition, commercialisation, funding and sponsorship is being fought elsewhere.
This a tribute to the all the girls and women (and men!) who, like everyone involved with Glasgow City FC, embrace feminism and strive to make society more equal with opportunities open to all, regardless of gender.
It is a celebration of the women who, even when they fall down, stand right back up and push forward, and consistently deliver on whoever or whatever they want to be, in despite of the barriers and attitudes of an unfair society where women’s worth is still such that we continue to be paid less for the work that we do.
If we all say “we can” and then actually “do”, we’ll make a difference. Take whatever you need by the scruff of the neck and run with it, then we’ll be actively participating in striving towards achieving what we want to be, paving the way for others to benefit in the process. We’re privileged in this country, we’re not risking our lives by standing up for one another. Our voice and our actions are legitimate, but need to be louder.
Just like the footballers playing in the Champions League today there will be moments when we fall. We’ll get injured and we’ll sometimes lose and watch victory being celebrated in the watery eyes of others. But if we say we can, we’ll recover and get back up and do it all again and bit by bit we’ll make it happen, for you, for me, for women all over the world. Whatever that might be. In sport, in politics, in the workplace, at home, in education, at leisure; everywhere, anywhere.
If you get the opportunity, take a moment to watch the Glasgow City FC players as they line up before the match kicks off. As the inspiring anthem plays look at the fire in their eyes, the gritted determination of their clenched cheeks, the pride echoing around the stadium from studs penetrating the surface, women’s boots that are kicking “you cannae do that” right into touch.
We can do. We will do. Let’s do it together.
The game kicks off at 4.05pm and is being played at the Excelsior Stadium in Airdrie. If you can make it along to support these remarkable girls then please do so, and if not, you can watch the match live on BBC ALBA. You can watch a promo here: http://youtu.be/1t-4lndV1D8