Moira Gordon: My football dreams were shattered but thousands can now follow theirs

Dee Hepburn in Gregory's Girl was one of the few female football role models. Picture: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock
Dee Hepburn in Gregory's Girl was one of the few female football role models. Picture: Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock
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It hit me as Erin Cuthbert scored her side’s sublime opening goal. Like every young Scottish footballer she had grown up dreaming of netting for her country at Hampden and, in front of a record crowd, the fantasy had just become a reality. That’s when I realised just how far the game has come since I harboured similar ambitions three decades ago.

I kicked a ball about as soon as I could walk, played under streetlights with my brothers and their friends until my mum called us in. To paraphrase John Gordon Sinclair, I most definitely had a dream.

Somewhere amongst the treasure trove of family memories in my parent’s attic, there is an old jotter with a story I penned in primary school. It was about growing up to play for Scotland, and the Roy of the Rovers ending had me partnering Kenny Dalglish and netting the winning goal at the World Cup for 
Scotland.

I would head to school with shorts under my school skirt so I wouldn’t have to waste time changing at break (it was jumpers and a skirt for goalposts on our playing field) and I eventually made the school team.

But then the authorities stepped in and girls were banned from playing and I cried. To be honest, I didn’t just cry, I sobbed.

One teacher told me it was for the best, as girls should stick to netball and dancing. That was the moment she lost so much of my respect. Even as a child I knew that wasnonsense.

At high school, there were more barriers. But, eventually, I realised that hurdles are there to be cleared and petitioned my head teacher to make sure that when PE classes were split down gender lines, I was allowed to play football with the lads rather than simply undertake yet another term of hockey.

There were complaints from parents and teachers who did not find it acceptable, but, with the backing of my supportive mum and dad, the forward-thinking treacher and the acceptance of my male class-mates, I won that battle.

As Scotland head to the World Cup finals, cheered off by a record crowd of 18,555 at Hampden on Tuesday night, they do so knowing that so many battles have been fought, big and small. But that now, respect has been earned.

There have been so many unsung and unseen pioneers who have never given up the fight but it has taken time and, ultimately, it has taken the talent and the sacrifice of the players to get us to the Euros and now the World Cup and prove that anything is 
possible.

Not that long ago, as a girl playing football, there was prejudice and assumptions but there were no girls’ football boots, no female-fit strips, very few teams, and no well-kent role models, other than Gregory’s Girl Dee Hepburn, pictured, or Cheri Lunghi in The Manageress.

But so much has changed. Girls and women playing football is now normal and look at the Scotland squad, a veritable version of the spice girls. Ginger (or strawberry blonde), Scary, Posh, Baby, and Sporty, obviously – champions and role models there that every girl can relate to. They prove that stereotyping is silly.

There are now over 12,000 female players in this country, football is offered to boys and girls at school and whether playing in mixed teams every weekend, turning out for designated-girls sides or reaching the latter stages of the Champions League as a professional, the national game is open to all and the quality is improving year on year as a result.

All those thoughts and more swept across my mind like a Claire Emslie ball into the box on Tuesday night.

And I started to feel emotional again. But this time it wasn’t because my dream was being shattered, it was because thousands and thousands of others are now being encouraged and inspired to follow theirs.