The latest Girls’ Football Week began on Monday, an annual initiative to get more girls aged 5 to 11 playing football across the United Kingdom.
This year’s event included popular Disney characters such as Moana, Rapunzel and Officer Judy Hopps running sessions for girls around the country in order to attract more young girls to the game.
While Lioness Laura Bassett was at Bedford Modern School on Monday to surprise some budding young footballers after returning from a spell playing for Canberra United in Australia.
“It’s brilliant,” says Basset on the amount of young girls getting involved. “Girls’ Football Week isn’t just about meeting your idols but it’s for young girls who might be going out and playing for the first time.
“What’s so interesting and key this year is being partnered with Disney. I’ve seen Disney films and Moana is my favourite character. If you’re a young girl who doesn’t know much about football but you’ve gone to a session and you love Disney then you might be inspired by Moana or Rapunzel.”
Bassett was in attendance earlier this week to not just help launch the latest Girls’ Football Week, but get involved in coaching sessions with school girls and offer advice and answer questions during the day.
“They’re having such a good time and they’re so excited,” she says. “A lot of them are tired and they’ve been moving around different Disney stations, I’ve just said to enjoy it and get involved.
“Girls can be shy but try to enjoy it because you might find out you want to go again. I end up sounding like my mum, you listen to an older person and they’re so wise but you listen as a kid you don’t want to listen do you? I try not to be that person but I definitely am that person!”
Bassett is also impressed that Bedford are adding girls football to their standard curriculum for the first time and believes the sheer amount of opportunities girls are now getting is “amazing.”
The defender also thinks that the added exposure coming from increased television, radio and social media coverage is playing a big role too.
“They can look at the Lionesses and how many games are being covered on TV or radio and they can look up to whoever their idol is, whether it’s Lucy Bronze or Laura Bassett or Steph Houghton.
“They’re accessible, you can watch them play. When I grew up it was maybe one cup final a year on TV and that was it.”
For Bassett herself, the 34-year-old is now looking at her options after a spell outside the English game, which began when her former club Notts County Ladies folded just over a year ago.
Bassett also hasn’t played for the Lionesses since captaining the side against Portugal at Euro 2017, but the defender insists her playing days aren’t over yet.
“I had an achilles and heel injury when I got back from Australia so I’ve got that sorted now,” she says.
“I’m back training but there’s only four or five games left this season so I didn’t want to sign for a club and then change again straight away. I want to make the right decision, I can reassess because I’m sure there will be movement like there always is. Sit tight…”
If Bassett does return it will be her first taste of FA Women’s Super League football in almost two years and she’ll be coming back into a new era for the sport.
With the changes to both the structure, the names of the leagues and the identities of the teams within the top two divisions set to come in this summer, Bassett hopes the league will soon have some consistency and believes it will play a big part in attracting more fans.
“When the WSL and Championship have settled down we need to leave it for a few years,” says Bassett. “There’s been so many changes and I do believe there’s always been a method behind those changes but I feel like now for the fans and the young girls they need a bit of stability to be able to follow what’s going on.”
But Bassett says nobody wants to see a repeat of “past mistakes” after the news of WSL 2 club Millwall Lionesses possibly facing administration broke last week.
“The clubs wanting to join have to be able to make a good bid,” she insists. “It’s a mean process and vigorous to get through but it has to be able to stop what happened to Notts and what’s going on at Millwall.
“Hopefully we’ll have even more girls coming through and you want to go in the right direction but we need to make sure past mistakes don’t reappear.”