Great anticipation was in the air when five all-women’s teams consisting of 13-year-old keen footballers met at the University of Westminster’s sports ground in Chiswick, Greater London, on 18 June.
All the girls were eager to prove that their team was the one that ought to be representing the United Kingdom in the autumn finals of the MTG United for Peace Cup tournament in Oslo, Norway.
The Weather Gods did what they could to make the tournament‘s conditions exciting; with equal amounts of sun and showers and some really heavy downpour, it was all rather unpredictable. But that didn’t seem to affect the players much:
“The girls were too happy just to meet opponents that they never played before and to take part in such a tournament”, said volunteer Anna Mäkinen, Modern Responsibility Coordinator at MTG.
Special guest football player Gilly Flaherty from the Arsenal Ladies was happy to take part in the football celebrations: “It’s great that women’s football gets the attention it deserves.”
Gilly is a young talented defence player who has a rapidly developing international career with England Under-20s and Under-19s. She took part in the tournament to act as a role-model and inspiration for the girls. Gilly Flaherty happily walked around and chatted to the players, whilst she offered advice and wrote autographs.
“It was great to see the happiness amongst the girls; how their eyes lit up on the pitch. It was also a pleasure to see so many involved parents cheering and assisting the girls,” said organiser of the UK event Jennie Vavik, Viasat Broadcasting.
In the end the girls of the Tower Hamlets’ team proved the strongest and won the UK Cup. They beat West Ham Ladies in the final after a particularly even game resulting in an exciting penalty shoot-out, with a lot of goals being scored for both teams.
“The tournament was a great success, and we’re very pleased for Tower Hamlets. The winning team can look forward to an incredible experience in Oslo,” said Jennie Vavik.
“The winning team had only played together for six weeks!” said Anna Mäkinen. “The council of the London borough Tower Hamlets had competitions before the tournament in order to put together the best girls in its team. It seemed to work well, the players were amazing!”
“You see, that’s what it’s all about!” said Jennie Vavik . “The whole idea of MTG United for Peace is to show the children involved what they can achieve by interacting, listening to one another and having fun together! For a team, which has played together for such a short period of time, to win a tournament like this a true inspiration to everyone!”