Posted on April 01 2015
(Image from www.thefa.com)
This week's Wednesday Woman is the incredible and inspiring Rachel Yankey, OBE. A member of the Arsenal Ladies team, Team GB2012 and England Footballer, read how she started in the field and how she overcame adversity to become top of her game.
Bardega: What is your background and what first got you into football?
Yankey: I grew up in North West London and first started playing football with my brother and friends who were all boys in the local park. When they went off to join a local football team, of course I wanted to join - we didn’t understand, as kids, that it wasn’t accepted for girls to play football, so we decided to disguise myself as a boy called Ray. It wasn't until two years later that my cover was blown and I was forced to find a girls-only team.
Bardega: What's the biggest challenge you've faced in your career and how did you overcome it?
Yankey: Being left out of the England team for the Euro's 2009. I overcame it by believing that I was a good enough player to still play for England even when others had doubted me. There is a lot of competition in football and you need to be able to accept situations may not always go your way, but that it’s essential to stay positive, keep learning and move forward.
I also think there are a lot of young, talented players and hopefully through sharing my experiences, it will help to show them the strength that is necessary to stay mentally, as well as physically, strong.
Bardega: What are you most proud of?
Yankey: I'm most proud of a couple of things - winning my 100th cap for England in 2010. I was captain, I scored a goal, and got the Player of the Match award for that game. Also, winning the quadruple with Arsenal in 2007 (League Cup, FA Cup, Premier League & UEFA Cup which is now called the Champions League).
I also feel proud that having left school with no G.C.S.E’s, not knowing who I was or what I was going to do, I have ended up representing my country at the most elite level of football, being one of the most capped footballers, and I own my own company. These are things that I never dreamt of achieving when I left school.
Bardega: What/who inspires you?
Yankey: What - the enjoyment the game can give you.
When I was a kid, asking if I wanted to play football was like asking if I wanted to play down the park. I would have played anywhere. It’s the love of the game, you don't have to have loads of money to be able to play, you don't even have to speak the same language. You can go down to your local park and for me it was just joining in and trying your best and coping with the standard of play and I think that is something I’ve always enjoyed doing.
Who - I always loved watching Ian Wright play - he just made the game look so much fun.
Bardega: Have you any advice for other young girls looking to enter male dominated fields?
Yankey: Enjoy yourself, believe in yourself, have fun and if people say you can't do something - just smile when you prove that you can. Obviously women’s football has changed so much since I started playing so it’s not so much a male dominated sport any more and, as it gets much more high profile, hopefully young girls won’t have to go through what I did to pursue a football career which is great to see.
It’s important for any youngster to look up to someone who has been there and done it; someone you can Google, and that you can watch on TV. It’s special.
You can follow Rachel on Twitter
Huge thanks to Marie-Christine Bouchier for helping to coordinate this interview.