Dons' next generation of women footballers take lessons from Chelsea stars
AFC Wimbledon's next generation of women footballers have been taking inspiration from the cream of the Women’s Super League.
Chelsea FC Ladies spent time with schoolgirls at the AFC Wimbledon female football festival on Monday passing on their words of wisdom.
Just five days before Chelsea’s men visit Dons for a pre-season friendly, Gilly Flaherty, Jackie Groenen and Emma Wilhelmsson were on hand to promote the women’s game at a schools tournament at the Kingsmeadow Athletics & Fitness Centre.
Five school teams battled it out at the competition on Monday with Greenshaw High, Chestnut Grove, Glenthorne and Holy Cross (A & B team) all represented.
Chestnut Grove won 1-0 in the final against Holy Cross B, but spreading the word about the women’s game and increasing participation was the goal of this tournament.
Chelsea coach Katie Quinlan said: “For the past six weeks I’ve been going into secondary schools and working alongside the Football League Trust to promote their Female Football Development programme.
"We’ve been trying to raise participation in women’s football among 14-25 year olds and to give those already involved more playing opportunities.
"We’ve been running training sessions every week during PE lessons and this tournament is a culmination of the work."
She added: “The tournament provides an opportunity for the girls to meet Women’s Super League players, but the Surrey County FA are also here to promote refereeing and coaching opportunities.
"We really appreciate the Chelsea Ladies players giving up their time to show what can be achieved.”
Flaherty, who joined Chelsea Ladies from Arsenal last season, said: “It’s a good part of being a professional footballer to support grass roots football.
"When I was younger I aspired to be a footballer and I can remember meeting Katie Chapman and Rachel Yankey at a tournament years ago. I had tears in my eyes when I saw them because they were my biggest role models and they still are now.
“I’m fortunate to be a professional footballer and it’s good to be allowed to give that hope to these girls that they can do it.
"If they want to carry on with their football there are pathways in place for them to achieve what they want and they just need to stay focused.”