Around 100 girls and young women gathered at Ark Elvin Academy in Wembley on International Women’s Day (8th March 2020) to take part in the inaugural Wembley Cup football tournament, supported by the Wembley National Stadium Trust. The participants were cheered on by at least as many parents, coaches and supporters, making it a real day to remember.
Before play began, the girls were addressed by Ann John OBE, former leader of Brent Council and a WNST trustee. She noted that for many years until 1971, women and girls were banned from playing football on any official premises. This contrasts to the situation today, where top level women’s sport is growing exponentially and the England Lionesses and members of other elite sports squads provide such excellent and inspirational role models for girls starting out on their sporting journey. But, of course, there still remains much to do to achieve real sporting equality.
The girls also received a special message of encouragement from local England football legend Rachel Yankee OBE who said “I would like to wish all the players taking part the very best of luck for the Wembley Cup on International Women’s Day. I hope the competition is a real success and most of all that everyone enjoys themselves. It’s great to see the whole community coming together and supporting opportunities for women in the home of English football.
“We have already seen the great commitment and character of the players in training for the competition and there is no doubt this will have helped all the players to develop their skills to be the best in the borough. It is also fantastic to see that they are proving an inspiration for girls across the borough and helping to reduce stigma about women in sport. Well done to you all for helping to make a positive change in Brent.”
The tournament itself was a great success, with competitions in three age groups U11s, U12s and U13s. Each was fiercely contested but all matches were played in a great spirit, with respect for the officials, kindly provided by Middlesex FA, as well as true sporting appreciation for opposition players and coaches alike.
Congratulations go to all of the teams for the way that they joined in, and special thanks to the visiting teams from Hanwell and Ruislip who helped make the day such a success and added real value to the competition. But as ever there have to be winners and losers – and so a special shout out goes to the winners of the three competitions, Brent Schools FA U11s and U13s and the QPR Brent girls U12s, with individual presentations also being made the best players and top goalscorers in each division.
Special thanks go to tournament organiser Zaffar Van Kalwala, as well as to Abdi Farah and his colleagues at Connect Stars, who helped make the day such a positive one. Thanks also to the Ark Elvin Academy, Middlesex FA and all of the teams, coaches and parents who supported the occasion.