TV's Lorraine in bid to save Alyshia's cup final dream
A SCHOOLGIRL football star banned from taking part in a football tournament because of her sex has won the backing of TV presenter Lorraine Kelly as the campaign to overturn the rule steps up.
Bathgate Academy pupil Alyshia Walker, 13, who is Fauldhouse Foxes' Under-13s captain and top scorer, helped her side qualify for the finals of the Tesco Cup in Birmingham by winning the youth Scottish Cup.
But the rising star has been told she cannot play in the competition on May 22 as it takes place in England and is governed by the English Football Association rules, which prevent girls being part of a boys' team if they are over 11.
More than 1100 people have signed an online petition over the past few days in a bid to get the English FA to change its rules.
Alyshia's story will reach even more people up and down the country when she appears on Lorraine on ITV tomorrow morning.
Alyshia's mum described the reaction to her daughter's plight as "surreal".
Christine Walker, 44, from Blackburn, West Lothian, said: "A researcher called me up and asked if we would go down to London and sit on the sofa with Lorraine Kelly.
"They're flying us down on Monday evening and then we will come home on Tuesday after the show. It's nerve-wracking, but I will just let Alyshia do all the talking.
"She is nervous, but more excited about the whole thing.
"It's just surreal, to be honest. I'm hoping this will make a difference. Fingers crossed."
Pressure is mounting on the English FA as well as competition sponsors Tesco to intervene, while her cause has also been picked up by new Lothians Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who won cross-party support for a motion backing the rule change.
Mr Findlay's motion calls on the Scottish Football Association, the Scottish Government and sponsors Tesco to work with the English FA to end "what is considered to be this discrimination" and allow Alyshia to play in the national finals.
It has already been signed by fellow Lothians Labour MSPs Sarah Boyack and Kezia Dugdale, Green Alison Johnstone and other Labour and SNP MSPs.
Iain Shaw, league secretary of the West Lothian Association of Youth Football Clubs (WLAYFC), said: "The petition has surpassed our expectations, but it proves that people out there feel the same way we do about it.
"The comments have been very positive, with everyone agreeing that it's a travesty and that the rules should be changed."
Fauldhouse Foxes' Under-13s were set to play for the county cup at Almondvale Stadium in Livingston on Saturday in the WLAYFC league.
To sign Alyshia's petition, go to http://www.petition.co.uk/let-alyshia-play.
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