This work has been a fun and interesting exploration of my peers, teammates, and friends. Here is a collection of personal, behind the scene portrait photographs of professional female footballers, each supplemented with personal statements. I invite you to browse, read, and perhaps learn something new...
This portfolio is an unconventional investigation of professional female football players. To help you understand where I am coming from, here is a small insight into the women’s game, from my perspective.
Women’s football is growing at a rapid pace all over the world. Today, there is more opportunity, exposure, and participation in women's football than ever before. The future is bright and it is exciting.However, despite the many positive strides the sport has taken in recent history, there is still immense room for growth. This is natural considering the male dominated history of Football.
In my most recent experience, playing professional football in England I could not ignore the immeasurable disparity between the men’s and the women’s game. Sexism in sport, particularly football in the UK is alive and well and it is merciless. Football is popular culture in England, well men’s football anyway; it is a multi-billion pound operation in the UK alone. Sky and BT Sport now pay £1.7 billion annually just to broadcast live Premier League games. Monetary figures in the men’s game are absolutely dumbfounding and considering they are so vast it would make sense that equivalent female programs would be well supported. It would make sense, however, this is far from the reality.
I am not suggesting that female footballers in the Women’s Super League should be signing contracts for £300,000 a week, which would be equivalent to some men in the English Premier League. I am not suggesting this largely because that is more money than any single person should ever require. However, some women in the WSL are earning as little as £50 a week. One weeks salary of a top player in the English Premier League could comfortably cover the yearly salaries of a top WSL teams starting eleven... Interesting.
In my experience as a professional footballer and an international footballer, funding has always been a huge barrier, as it is for many athletes. This has also meant that money has never been a motivation for me personally and I could not be more thankful for that. I felt this project would be an interesting investigation because players at the top of the women’s game are not fuelled by money… So what is it that drives us?
I said this was unconventional because I have approached these women with an agenda focused entirely on the individual, a behind the scenes snap shot.
Although playing women’s football comes with its certain frustrations I have used this project to display the women’s game for what it truly is, a beautiful organisation entirely separate from the men’s game. There is something unique about the women’s game, and that is the people. These are players, but most importantly people, who have dedicated their lives to the love of the game, despite adversity. In this portfolio I have aimed to expose the pure motivations of these women, the love, hardships, cultures, highs, and lows. I have delved into the culture of the women’s game by portraying the diversity of the individuals. I am enthused and devoted to this project because this is my livelihood, this is my passion, and this is my reality and the reality of a lot of the beautiful women that surround me.
So here they are... A handful of extraordinary women in 'the beautiful game' today.
New Zealand International & Professional Footballer, Konomiya Speranza FC (Japan)
"Football has been an interesting love affair for me. I love the sport, the simplicity and accessibility of it, and how it can take you on so many different journeys. I’ve always been at my best when I have treated it as a journey - a vehicle that takes me around the world, across distances both physical and cultural. This has shaped me into the player and person I am today, as I’m learning to ride the highs and low with a healthy amount of balance and perspective!"
Iceland International & Professional Football Player, Doncaster Bells (England)
"I play because on the pitch I feel best, it's where nothing matters except what happens between the two goals. It's like my meditation because when I'm playing I'm totally immersed in the game and what's around me. It's where I'm happiest. I'm motivated by learning and improving as a player and as a person. I focus on one thing each year to improve on and then there are always things you learn. I keep an open mind and just love learning.
It's difficult when you're away from family and friends and you spend a lot of time by yourself reading, watching telly, going for walks, cinema etc. However, I have become very good at switching off from football when not at training and playing and I think that's so important. It enables me to enjoy my football a lot more. Because the more you think about it the more it will wreck your brain. It's best to just go out there, do your best and enjoy yourself while at it".
Scotland International & Professional Footballer, Liverpool Ladies FC
"I started playing football I think how most women footballers begin- playing with their brother or with boys in the playground. Looking back now those were the days that played a huge part in getting me to where I am today. Since then football has been a constant throughout my life and has given me some amazing experiences I would never have imagined back when I began. I played football solely for the enjoyment and competitive aspects and believe this is hugely important even at a professional level, which I am lucky enough to find myself at now. Football has given me many great friends, the opportunity to travel the world and allows me to do my hobby as a job. In addition, female players now find themselves being important role models for younger generations with the growth of the women's game exceeding many expectations".
Alexandra "Ali" Riley
New Zealand International & Professional Footballer, FC Rosengård (Sweden)
"Football has given me life skills, the opportunity to travel the world, and more joy than I can describe. Having a profession where I get to do what I love with the people I love fills me with a positive energy that goes beyond the football field, and I try to pass it on to others with every opportunity I get. Through experiencing other cultures I have learned to truly appreciate everything I have, especially my friends and family. Every morning I wake up with my heart swelling with gratitude, and I believe that is one of the keys to a full life."
England International & Professional Football Player, Liverpool Ladies FC
"I have seen the progression of women’s football in my own career, I remember having to pay to play in local parks, in my own kit. Now I am fully professional. I’ve been through many ups and downs, and if it weren’t for still being in the national team, and my husband and family then I probably wouldn't have carried on. My husband keeps me going! He's the best! I am motivated to win, but also motivated to help the game grow. Seeing kids that aspire to be like us is amazing, I love to see how many more girls can play football now without the kind barriers I used to face, it’s great!"
Professional Football Player, Liverpool Ladies FC
“My friends and family define me as the 'footballer' if introducing me to people. It's the only thing in life I can truly say I have 100% passion for, whether it's playing or supporting my team. Nothing else can give me the extreme highs and lows of experiencing winning titles and trophies or the disappointment of relegation and losing. I can only describe it as a bi-polar type condition that consumes my emotions. Despite the feelings of hurt, disappointment, anger and sometimes feeling you've completely had enough, it always keeps me coming back for more!”
New Zealand U20 & Full International Football Player
"I started playing football 7 years ago and since that day I have fallen in love with the amazing sport. The feeling of being out on the pitch expressing myself as a person and as a player has driven me to try be the best I can be. My biggest motivation is to make my family proud and accomplish my goals as a player. Everyday I strive to get everything I can out of life. I maintain a balanced lifestyle by also aiming to become a personal trainer and also an entrepreneur. Football has brought a balance to my life that I used to dream about."
England U20 International & Professional Football Player, Liverpool Ladies FC
“My name is Martha Harris and I'm 22 years old. I have been playing football for about 13 years, as long as I can remember! I come from a footballing family, my dad was a coach, older sister played semi-pro and my younger brother is currently playing football in Sweden. I also played in the same team as my twin sister for many years! I started playing football because it was always a part of my upbringing/childhood thanks to my dad brother and sister. I have always loved football and representing my school, region, and country! My highlights from my footballing career are scoring a goal in the U20 World Cup and winning the league with Liverpool Ladies. I love watching, coaching and officiating football, even when I'm not playing. I have made many friends, and travelled many different countries thanks to football, and created a lot of great memories. I feel very privileged that now the women game is gradually progressing and I now have the opportunity to play as my career and job!”
Welsh International Co-captain & Professional Football Player, Liverpool Ladies FC
"The reason I got in to professional football is purely because I wanted more than what I had growing up living in a poor area off pennies. I wanted to be able to afford things and not rely on on my mums government money. Thats what motivates me everyday still and I take that drive in to life not just football. Football is my passion and I owe a lot to it because it have given me opportunities when I needed it most."
England U23 International & Professional Football Player, Liverpool Ladies FC
"The enjoyment I get from diving (I'm a Goal Keeper) around a football pitch is the main reason that I play, but also because it brings a lot of happiness and distraction to my dad who struggles with health problems. Knowing how proud I make him and my family motivates me to be the best I can be, in all walks of like. Balancing football and life is difficult at times, football is life and life is football. It’s hard to switch off and a lot of your life choices revolve around if and how it’ll affect your game. I wouldn’t change it for the world though, you have to grab every opportunity you have because you never know how long it will last."
Shanice van de Sanden
Dutch International & Professional Footballer, Liverpool Ladies FC
"I am Shanice van de Sanden. I am player of Liverpool Ladies and the Dutch National team. I started to play when I was 12 years old and since that day I can't live without soccer, it has brought me so much in life. Every day I want to be better than yesterday and that is what motivates me. I get so much from soccer and next to this, my life is about family and friends. The balance between soccer and family and friends is hard sometimes but it is getting easier. Soccer is my life and my life is soccer."
Professional Football Player, Liverpool Ladies FC
"I think it’s pretty simple as to why I play football: it simply makes me happy. For me it’s a way to escape what’s going on off the pitch and to be around some great people. My mom and God motivate me to play. Since I was about 13, I’ve always told my mom that I would take care of her and she won’t have to worry about struggling anymore, and I’m still on a mission to make sure that happens. So each day I go out on that pitch, I remember who I’m doing this for and why I am doing and everything else comes to me naturally. I try to manage both my football life and off the pitch life in a way that I can be happy with both. I personally think it’s a like a domino effect, one has an effect on the other. So as long as I’m happy with football, my life off the pitch is good, and vice versa. I think being able to balance both is an easy thing to do when you have the right people surrounding you."
New Zealand International Football Player
"Football and dancing has made me the person I am today. Growing up I would transition from the stage to the field most weekends. Dancing has helped shape my playing style and will always be my creative escape. Football has given me so many opportunities and experiences that I will forever cherish. I get to travel the world with my best friends and I continue to wear the fern with immense pride. Although football takes up so much of my life; dancing, my family and my friends give me the balance to succeed."
Mandy van den Berg
Dutch International Captain & Professional Footballer, Liverpool Ladies FC
At the moment I play for Liverpool ladies and am I the extremely proud captain of the Netherlands national team. My parents both played football and me and my brother as well. A real football family with so much love for this beautiful game. My family and close friends supports me with everything I’m doing and that is the most important thing for me. The love, the friendship and the connection with people, I’m very thankful for this. The most beautiful thing for me about playing football is that you only achieve your goals if you work together. Winning in togetherness is where I get so much satisfaction from. Teamwork makes the dream work!
New Zealand International & Professional Football Player
"Through one way or another pretty much my entire life has been influenced and shaped by football. From kicking it all of at age four, to spending my youth either on the field or away on tour traveling the world, experiencing different cultures. To the many opportunities it has provided me, such as meeting some amazing souls, ending up as a second family, and last and most importantly - meeting Priscilla (my wife). All of this through the beautiful game, Football. Love is where most of my motivation comes from. My love to and from my wife, the love for the game, my team-mates, and the love for myself - to be my best self."
England U20 International & Professional Footballer, Liverpool Ladies FC
"I play football purely for the love of the game. I am motivated by seeing improvements in my myself, in my game, and having success. I love to make my family and friends proud, and I absolutely love being in a team environment, laughing, and just having a ball!"
Elisabeth "Libby" Stout
Professional Football Player Boston Breakers (USA)
"I play because I love the game and I have been fortunate enough to continue playing the game at the professional level. I am motivated by a desire to compete and succeed at a high level. Also to prove that it is possible to live this dream if you work hard enough and dedicate yourself to it. I balance football and life just through time management and knowing when to switch on and off. It's been really important to me to have a life outside of the game which helps keep me balanced and grounded."
England International & Professional Football Player & Captain Liverpool Ladies FC
"My schedule and my decisions both big and small are determined by my football. I love the sport and I love to see how the game is growing and how girls have so many opportunities now. I am an extremely proud captain at Liverpool and I want to take my football as far as I can for club and country. I want to look back on my career and know that I was the best player I could have been. My parents and my family are very supportive of what I do, and I'm motivated to make them and myself proud."
New Zealand International & Professional Football Player, AFC Ajax (Holland)
"I believe football is what I am suppose to be doing right now. It continues to feed me energy and makes me feel alive. It does not define me but is only helping me create who I really am. I am just following my heart and it is taking me to extraordinary places."
These are (some) of 'The Women Behind; The Beautiful Game' a small collection of women paving the way for many young girls to come.