On the right track
celebrates International Women's Day by talking to England midfielder Jill Scott about how attitudes to women's football are slowly changing for the better.
Last Updated: 08/03/12 11:51am
As a woman in the male-dominated world of football, England international Jill Scott admits recognition is not always correlative to success.
But the 25-year-old feels it speaks volumes of changing attitudes towards women in sport that the schoolmates that poked fun at her as the only girl in the boys' football team now approach her in the street to congratulate her on her achievements.
Scott has much to be commended on. The Everton Ladies midfielder has established herself as one of England women's star players since making her international debut against Holland at the age of 19, notching up 60 caps for her country and featuring at three major tournaments.
She helped Hope Powell's side finish runners-up at the 2009 Euros behind Germany before reaching the quarter-finals of last year's World Cup, earning herself a spot in FIFA's team of the tournament.
While silverware has evaded Scott on the international stage so far, the 25-year-old has enjoyed trophy-winning campaigns in domestic action, lifting the league cup with the Toffees in 2009 before securing the FA Cup the following season.
Scott admits it stings to see an achievement on the pitch reduced to a few lines in the paper and having to wait until a major tournament for an England women's game to be televised.
But since her primary school days, and even since that 4-0 success over the Dutch on her first outing in an England jersey, the midfielder feels respect for women's sport has come on leaps and bounds.
"Obviously football is a male-dominated sport but I do think that's got a lot better over the years," she told Sky Sports.
"I've played now in two World Cups and a European championship in the past five years so I just think after every tournament we do get a lot more recognition and obviously more people are watching the games and hopefully that can keep getting better.
"It's a shame that a lot more of our games aren't televised and we have to wait to reach a major tournament, like a World Cup once every four years, which has a lot of media interest around it. It's about keeping that media interest throughout the season and not just waiting for it to be a major tournament.
"There's a lot of people that work hard behind the scenes to try and keep that going and it's about doing little bits at a time in order to try and get that and I think slowly we are getting there. You see crowds at games increasing slowly and I think a big change like that isn't just going to happen overnight. But I do feel we're heading in the right direction and if we can get more games on TV and more newspapers commenting on the games...
"Sometimes after an international game you'll find that we've got three or four lines in the paper and that's after Euro qualifier. If we can keep increasing all that then hopefully we'll be heading in the right direction, which I do feel we are at the minute."
Sunderland-born Scott played football throughout school and penned her first professional contract with the Black Cats as an 18-year-old in 2005.
By the time she donned the England shirt for the first time a year later, Scott feels attitudes towards women's football had already started to alter since her playground days.
"I think that's when it was kind of changing," she added. "People's attitudes have changed from when you were younger.
"I was probably the only girl playing in the boys' team and it was always highlighted and you probably did get a bit of name-calling and stuff when you were younger.
"When you're growing up you're always going to get a little bit of grief and whatever else, just because it's different isn't it? And difference always brings that about.
"That even changed from primary school to senior school because when we got to senior school there were more girls playing and there was a girls' team so therefore there wasn't that direct difference.
"It's crazy now because you look back to that and you see those people from school and they come up to you and they're like 'I've been watching you on the telly and you're doing really well and just keep it going'. You see how attitudes change after people have seen you play.
"Now it is quite good to see the change and I do think there is a lot more respect out there now for women in sport. As time has gone on it's got better and hopefully it will continue to do that."
While delighted to see more people embracing women's football, Scott feels comparisons to the men's side detracts from what Powell's side are trying to achieve.
"We never really want to be compared to the men," she added.
"There's obviously a lot of physical differences and it's always going to be difficult to compare the women's game to the men's game but I think we just want to try and make it it's own sport in its right and I think, slowly, we are getting there.
"You're never going to be able to compete with the likes of Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney and stuff like that but we do feel, technically, we can compete with the best teams and I think it's just about putting women's football out there and looking at it from that perspective rather than comparing it all the time."
Scott believes the ever-growing presence of social media in the sporting world has helped make women's football more accessible in recent years, particularly during a major tournament like last year's World Cup in Germany.
She said: "I think through social media, like Twitter and Facebook, a lot of people that are interested in us have got to see a lot more of our games and interact with the players. It's earned us a lot more respect.
"After the World Cup we got a lot of positive messages. There were a few of the male players who tweeted about watching the games. I think Robbie Savage did and Rio Ferdinand. It's out there that the games are on and they can watch them and they're kind of seeing that.
"In the past the games have been on telly but they haven't been publicised as much. I think a lot of people now get an insight into what you're doing in the day and how hard people are training and working and I just think we've earned a bit more respect in that sense."
England's attention is currently focused on booking a place at Euro 2013, with their next qualifier against Croatia looming at the end of the month.
While Scott is focused on that clash, she admits she has one eye on this summer's Olympics in London, where she hopes to beat fierce competition for a spot in Powell's Great Britain squad.
"I would love to be involved. It's a dream for anyone growing up to be involved in the Olympics, especially with it being in the UK, it makes it extra-special," said Scott.
"At the moment I know there have been 190 girls contacted who can get selected for that squad so the competition is very high but obviously it would be something I'd love to be involved in.
"I think whoever is to go it'll be a strong team. Obviously you've got English players but you've also got Ireland, Scotland and Wales so the team is going to be of a high standard.
"It's difficult going into an Olympics because it's something we haven't been involved in before but I'm sure Team GB will approach it like any other tournament, prepare well and see what happens when the games come about. It's probably about taking it one game at a time in a tournament like that."
To find out more about Jill Scott and the England women's team visit her official website.