With UEFA’s new ‘Press Play’ initiative aiming to make women’s football more culturally relevant and encourage participation, Nancy Frostick speaks to the players who are vlogging their lives on and off the pitch.
“I’ve had a few dirty looks to be fair – it’s a bit weird if you just see someone talking to themselves and their camera.”
For Arsenal and Scotland forward Lisa Evans, 2018 has already brought a new challenge in the form of vlogging. In a new YouTube series, the first of its kind, the 25-year-old has found herself talking to a camera as she participates in UEFA’s #WePlayStrong project, ‘Press Play’.
But while it might look like the ‘Press Play’ vloggers are talking to themselves, there is a captive audience waiting to watch their off-pitch antics.
Their audience is one familiar with following the daily lives of ordinary people via vlogging – a phenomenon that has propelled stars such as Zoella and Tanya Burr to fame and untold influence with teenage girls.
The series, which forms part of the #WePlayStrong movement, is just one way in which UEFA are seeking to make women’s football culturally relevant and encourage girls to keep participating as they enter adulthood.
The first episode of ‘Press Play’ followed the four players as they went to training and explored their respective cities with friends. The quartet, who met while playing together in Germany, now represent different club and national sides across Europe.
Austrian national team duo Zadrazil and Feiersinger play in Germany’s Frauen-Bundesliga for Turbine Potsdam and SC Sand respectively, while German international Beckmann plays in Switzerland for FC Basel.
For Evans, who became a Gunner after a summer move to the FA Women’s Super League from Bayern Munich, the chance for the friends to show the growth of the women’s game across Europe is an important element of the series.
“To have four different friends playing in different leagues, having different cultures and playing in different national teams, that’s the fun part of it.”
“I think the vlogs will show the growth of the women’s game, the professionalism that it takes, the hard work and the dedication but also the other parts of it, what we do in our general down time and our everyday lives.”
Not just about football
Down time is one of the important means the vlogs use to show viewers that Evans and co are normal women who happen to play football for a living.
Austrian midfielder Zadrazil stresses that the series isn’t just about football, it is shining a light on what sport has given them off the pitch.
“The project is the first time ever that girls can see the side of us outside of football which is pretty cool I think. I’m just a normal person, I just do what everyone else does and that’s the fun side of it.”
“We just want to show them what actually goes into our training, what kind of nutrition we have, but also give them an insight into our life outside of soccer [football] to show them our hobbies and when we spend time with our friends.”
For the 24-year-old, the vlogs show that the players aren’t so different from any young girl watching them, especially when they have a shared love of football in common.
“Football has always been such a big part of my life. It can have so many positive effects in so many different ways like a healthy lifestyle, making new friends and having fun even outside of soccer,” she added.
“Football gives you so many opportunities and it has so many positive effects on your life.”
Friendship is also a central theme of the videos for 25-year-old FC Basel striker Beckmann.
“Taking part in the ‘Press Play’ vlog series is fantastic because I’m doing it with three of my friends.”
“Despite living in different countries, we all try to keep in touch as much as possible, and I think that it will be great for girls to see how close we all are thanks to football.”
The broader #WePlayStrong campaign formed out of scientific research conducted by the University of Birmingham, which found that shared experiences in a team environment can boost confidence, happiness and self-image among teenage girls.
Despite being such a key time in their development where they learn vital life lessons, players in their teenage years drop out of the sport in large numbers.
To make girls aware that football is a sport for women as much as it is for men, the #WePlayStrong campaign uses the stories of professional players alongside links to local leagues and grassroots training drills on its website to cover all levels of engagement with football.
Regardless of how and where you play, the primary message of the project is that football is fun and worth continuing with even if there are challenges in the way.
Challenges and ppportunities
For those involved in the ‘Press Play’ series, showing the rewards of persevering in the sport they love is important.
While challenges in football come in all forms, one of the biggest challenges in Evans’ career was moving to Germany to play abroad for the first time.
“It was totally scary moving away from friends and family but it is something that I totally don’t regret. It’s given me the chance to play football professionally at such a high level and dedicate myself to football,” Evans added.
“There are so many opportunities to make a life out of football and if young girls love it as much as I do then they should stick with it and they’ll reap the benefits.”
So, whether young players have ambitions of playing professionally or just for fun, the ‘Press Play’ vloggers are letting them take an inside look at their lives – even if they are on the receiving end of strange looks for talking to a camera in public.
Join the #WePlayStrong movement at www.weplaystrong.org.
Follow Nancy on Twitter at @nancyfrostick
Catch up on Nancy’s previous stories here