‘It’s Wembley, it’s sick’: Football’s finest women on their FA Cup journey
Hot on the heels of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup, the finalists tell us why women are making the game even more ‘beautiful’
At Wembley this weekend, Manchester United WFC and Chelsea WFC clashed for a sold-out spectacle on the back of what has been a record year for women’s football.
At its grassroots, the sport is surging, and girls are joining football clubs in their droves.
Through this transformation more players and coaches will be able to enter high-quality training environments and give girls the best opportunity to fulfil their potential.
Now, the FA is making it more accessible for girls to access football through a renewed pathway to help fulfil more dreams for girls.
Reflecting on yesterday’s final, Marzena Bogdanowicz, Head of Marketing & Commercial of Women’s Football at the FA said: “We are immensely proud to have achieved this sell out, [it's been a] team effort across the whole of the FA, and also the two clubs in the final, Chelsea and Manchester United, who have showcased the importance of the fixture and the occasion to their fans to encourage them to attend and help reach this milestone.”
Ahead of the showdown at Wembley, in which Chelsea WFC were crowned victors for the third consecutive year, we caught up with both sets of finalists, as well as industry experts, to hear about women’s footballing journey so far.
Why is being in the FA Cup final so special to you?
Alessia Russio, Manchester UTD forward: “TheVitality Women’s FA Cupis something that every young kid watches and it often tells a really cool story about a team that have been on a journey together, and I think that’s exactly what we’ve been.”
Guro Reiten, Chelsea winger: “It’s the biggest game here in England, something special. I had no idea when I came to England but playing with the English girls and the way they speak about the FA Cup, I get it now. It’s Wembley, it’s sick.”
Maya Le Tissier, Manchester UTD defender: “It is so prestigious to just be in the final, especially at Wembley, in front of a record crowd.”
Sophie Ingle, Chelsea midfielder and Wales captain: “The Vitality Women’s FA Cup is one of the biggest trophies you can win in England and it’s one that we always aspire to try and get to, and luckily, we were able to play in the final again this year.”
What is your message to any young, aspiring footballers?
Sophie Ingle, Chelsea midfielder and Wales captain: “I would probably say just enjoy it. As a kid I always enjoyed playing football and being part of a team. I think you learn so many different skillsets, not just in football, but by interacting with different people, building friendships, learning how to communicate with a lot of various people. But mainly just enjoy it.”
Alessia Russo, Manchester UTD forward: “Never turn down an opportunity and work hard, but never take that enjoyment away because that’s the reason you started, so make sure it’s always there when you’re playing.”
Maya Le Tissier, Manchester UTD defender “Just enjoy it, work hard, control the controllables and do whatever you can to put yourself in the best positions that you can to get as far as you want to get. You can’t control everything, just the things that you can, so put everything towards that.”
Katie Zelem, Manchester UTD midfielder: “Always believe in yourself. Coaches’ opinions differ, opinions on everything differ, the most important opinion is your own. If you’re able to always believe in yourself then there’s one person on your side. In football, it’s a tough world, there’s a lot of different things going on and it’s not as straightforward as it seems. So, if you always know that you are trying your hardest and that you are doing your best and putting everything into it, then hard work definitely pays off in the end.”
Jelena Čanković, Chelsea midfielder: “I would say never give up on your dreams and believe in yourself.”
Would your younger self believe it?
Alessia Russo, Manchester UTF forward: “She’d be buzzing.”
Guro Reiten, Chelsea winger: “I hope she would be proud, because I am. Proud of the way I’ve had to get to the final, there’ve been ups and downs, a lot of challenges, but dreams come true.”
Katie Zelem, Manchester UTD midfielder: “To be honest, I think she would be shocked, but also amazed. I signed for Manchester United when I was 8 years old and even if you told my younger self then when I was playing at Manchester United, I never would have believed it
“It’s been a long journey from where the club when some of us first signed, no women’s team and no pathway to go through to, now being in an the final of the Vitality Women’s FA Cup, it feels like worlds apart.”
How far has women’s football come in your eyes?
Katie Zelem, Manchester Utd midfielder: “It’s been a long journey from where the club was when some of us first signed, no women’s team and no pathway to go through to taking part in a final, it feels like worlds apart.”
Alexa Murray, Director of PR at Vitality: “The growth in women’s football in recent years is truly fantastic. But there is still more we can do to drive visibility of the game and encourage many more people to give it a go or come back if they’ve had a break.”
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