POSTED: September 15th 2010

Smith's England poised to pursue ambition of sporting champions

Sue Smith spreading the message
Sue Smith spreading the message

KEIR RADNEDGE / Sports Features Communications

LONDON: England’s footballers beat Spain at home and then drew away. In their dreams? Maybe it would be for the men. But that impressive result was achieved by England’s women footballers along the way in their quest to reach next year’s World Cup finals in Germany.

Now they are 90 minutes away after beating Switzerland 2-0 last Sunday in Shrewsbury in a play-off opener and are favourites to maintain overall command of the tie in Thursday’s return in Wohlen.

“It all helps to show,” says experienced left-winger Sue Smith, “how far the women’s game has come.”

Germany, the United States, China, Brazil, Norway and Sweden have dominated the women’s game at international level but the dynamic is changing. English women’s club football, for instance, is turning professional, and will be a staging a televised domestic Superleague in the summer of next year.

Smith, who transferred to Superleague Lincoln after eight years with Leeds, has played 87 times for England since scoring on a memorable debut against Germany 15 years ago.

She has learned the professional caution common to all footballers of refusing to look too far ahead, insisting she and her team-mates “will take each game as it comes.” But after England surprisingly reached the European Championship Final last year, a place in the World Cup semi-finals must be the ambition.

This, of course, depends on them completing the victory over Switzerland.

Olympic dream

Beyond that, London 2012 beckons. The Olympic tournament is far more important to the hosts’ women footballers than to the men. England qualified for the last Olympic  finals in 2008 but the confusion surrounding the home nations’ approach to the Games denied them participation in Beijing.

This will not be an issue in London in two years’ time and Smith says: “Being host nation in the Olympics will be brilliant. A massive highlight – especially since Manchester, my home, is one of the football venues.”

Spreading the message of sporting ambition is not, for Smith, restricted to the pitch. She is one of the role models leading the Sport England's Sporting Champions programme which is managed by the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust in partnership with Creating Excellence.

The initiative inspires less active young people to take up a sport through sport taster sessions.  The last year has seen more than 2000 young people meet with Sport England's 20 top Sporting Champions – including Smith - to inspire them to take up sport.

Smith says: “I’ve been involved for 10 years now because I’ve always believed in giving back to sport and encouraging kids. I love going into schools and club and trying to inspire young people through who we are and what we do.

“We also get involved in sports which aren’t our own. It’s fun but it can  be a bit daunting. I’ve been doing cheerleading, next up it’s netball.”

Holmes, chair of DKH Legacy Trust [], said: "With London 2012 fast approaching and the recent announcement of a 'Schools Olympics', it is fantastic that the Sporting Champions programme is making a difference in motivating young people to stay engaged in sport.

"As a teenager, I was thrilled when I got the chance to meet Tessa Sanderson. That encouraged me to stick with my running and I am delighted that through Sporting Champions so many young people are getting to meet fantastic role models like Sue Smith, to inspire them too."

In the meantime there is a small matter of a certain football match in Switzerland.

Keywords · Sue Smith · Women's World Cup · England · Kelly Holmes · Sport England · Sporting Champions · London 2012

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