Scotland’s women footballers had a great send off to the FIFA World Cup in France with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Jamaica in a friendly at Hampden.
Sadly, I couldn’t be there myself, but I’ve heard lots of reports of a great atmosphere amongst the huge record crowd of crowd of more than 18,555.
Many of them were families and it was great to see images of parents and kids – particularly girls – caught up in the excitement and enjoying the fun of cheering Scotland on their way to their first World Cup.
There was plenty to cheer about with dazzling skills on display and a belter of a goal from Erin Cuthbert who netted a scorcher from a free kick on the 30-yard line.
Erin, who comes from Irvine and now lives in London where she plays for Chelsea, proved that she’s an inspiration off the pitch too when she took time out a few days after the match to pay a visit to her former primary school, Lawthorn.
A mural depicting Erin has just gone up on a building near my constituency office in Irvine and is sure to act as further inspiration for folk with ambitions to excel on the world stage.
Funding from the Scottish government has allowed our national squad to train full time from January this year right up to the start of the tournament, giving the team the best chance of success for the finals while strengthening the image of women’s and girls’ football across the country.
As I write, the girls’ World Cup Campaign has yet to start, but by the time you read this we’ll know how they got on in their opening match against England. Win, lose or draw I feel sure they’ll continue to inspire, and we’ll build on recent figures which show that the number of women playing football has doubled in the past five years from 7,126 in 2015-2015 to 14,071 in 2018-19.
Inspiration and ambition were also on display at Kilwinning Rangers recently when I was invited to a presentation to hear about their plans. I was particularly struck by their demonstration of the huge potential of the game in this area. There is no senior football in North Ayrshire where the population is around 135,000. Yet Angus, with a similar population, has Arbroath, Brechin, Forfar and Montrose all playing senior professional football. The Club has impressive plans and a pipeline for developing talent and I wish them ever success in putting their plans into action.