Scottish football is unquestionably in the doldrums; even if Celtic are granted the reprieve via the back door route into the Europa League, the miracle of Paris seems but a distant memory. Hearts failed to ignite in the battle of Britain; Rangers saw consistent indiscipline cost them whilst Celtic are currently at the mercy of Fifa’s court of arbitration. Yet whilst the mens game flounders, the women’s game in Scotland, thanks to a team consisting of Police Officer, a Professor and Pizza Hut manageress, is on the verge of greatness.
Glasgow City have already rewritten the Scottish history books by reaching the final round of qualifying for the Champions League and now face one final double-header against Icelandic champions Valur Reyjakvic before they can compete with Europes elite. It’s been a meteoric rise for the Scottish Champions since being founded only 13 years ago but they now seem untouchable at the top of the Scottish game. I’m speaking to the clubs general manager Laura Montgomery, and she is quick to point out their European success is no one-off fluke or fairytale, ‘We’ve been in Europe for the last four years and have an excellent record, yet we’ve always fallen at the final hurdle to due to Fifa’s co-efficient system.’ Montgomery goes on to explain how the competitions restructuring has given them a greater chance, ‘Before this year only the champions of the top leagues automatically qualified, so you still had top professional sides entering the competition at the same stage as us but this year Europe’s top 9 leagues skipped qualification which makes it fairer for the likes of us.’
On a domestic level the team are 14 games into the domestic season and they boast a quite formidable record: A 100% record and a goal difference of 96. It would be easy to dismiss their success as a reflection of the low overall quality of the Scottish game, yet that would be doing a complete injustice to the huge strides the club have made in their relatively short existence. In last round of Champions League Qualification- a round robin group stage in Serbia- they repeatedly dismantled professional opposition finishing the section with three comprehensive wins, scoring 17 goals and conceding none.
These achievements have left the club a victim of their own success. The victories may have seen Glasgow City make their mark in Europe but the journey has come at a severe financial cost. The trip to Serbia cost the club somewhere in the region £80,000 all of which was put on credit cards and which the team are now trying to pay off through a series of fundraising campaigns, most notably with release of charity song to coincide with their upcoming trip to Iceland.
Montgomery continued by discusing the problems of being a completely amateur by outlining that they constantly run the risk of merely being a feeder club to Europe’s top clubs. ‘For example we recently played Liverpool and they promptly went and signed three of our players right after the match which as you can imagine was a total sickener. Of course you can’t blame the girls, the lure of professional football is huge.’ Montgomery continued by admitting that often the club are often forced to shun away scouts interested in luring away some of their top players.
The trip to Serbia reflected the disparity of the women’s game throughout the continent; the group stage was televised throughout the Balkans, whilst in Scotland you can just about dig up some footage on YouTube. Yet whilst they are not used to playing in front of the cameras they are currently subject to a BBC ALBA fly-on-the-wall documentary charting Scotlands most successful team as they attempt juggle life at the top with professional lives outside the game.
‘ We have no where near the same resources as the men’s game; we are the most successful club but not many people know about us, but we are really hopeful that this will go some way to raising both our profile and the profile of the women’s game in Scotland.
Montgomery moans about the coverage of football in Scotland, “If I hear we have no Scottish sides in Europe one more time, I will tear my hair out. Scottish football is not in crisis, the men’s game is.”
While our male teams lose out to part-timers and minnows, our amateur female side can defeat full-time professionals and our national side is ranked 23rd in the world while our male side is ranked 55th. Surely this says it all. Why is our country incapable of getting behind anything female that is not blonde with a short skirt?’
The emergence of Stirling University’s academy of footballing excellence has gone someway to safe guarding Scottish talent from being poached from overseas. Currently 7 of the first team are enrolled as they combine studies with professional level training . ‘ We have girls training up to ten times a week, so some of them have almost no time for life outside of football!’
The real danger is that in a Scottish League lacking any real competition the club face a real danger of reaching a plateau, and Montgomery admits that in a dream world they would be able to join the English Premier League, ‘In terms of competing at a higher level it would be fantastic for the squad’ but reflected that at the moment at least it’s unrealistic on a number of varying levels.
If you want to experience Champions League football in Scotland this year, the club face Valur Rejkavik on September 29th at Pietershill Stadium. Tickets are £2 and available at the gate or online.
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