Our Patch JUNE 2016 Our Patch JUNE 2016 PITCH BATTLES THE LADIES' GAME IS A TURF WAR Forget Messi and Ronaldo, think Milly and Renata! Women’s football is growing rapidly, with Hammersmith Ladies one of the liveliest teams in the capital. Tim Harrison reports 18/19 A s the 15th staging of Europe’s quadrennial football bonanza gets underway in France, closer to home the stars of Hammersmith Ladies are getting in shape for a new season. Women’s football is thriving, thanks to girls’ schools enthusiastically embracing the beautiful game. And Michael Smith, manager of the Hammersmith Ladies team, believes the Euros will be an important recruiting sergeant. “It’s funny,” he said. “Female fans get just as agitated about football as male fans. Anything to encourage players will boost women’s football, especially if England do well at the Euros.” The local ladies’ team first kicked a ball in anger in 2015. West London has had fully fledged professional women’s teams for ages, including QPR LFC, London Bees, Fulham FC Foundation Ladies and Chelsea LFC, recently pipped to the FA Women’s Cup at Wembley by Arsenal. But there hasn’t been one for local amateurs. Michael launched the club when he lived in Ravenscourt Avenue – right by the park where the ladies now practise. “Hammersmith & Fulham Council helped us to get started,” he said. “Seven women turned up on the first day, and that quickly rose to 30, so we entered the Greater London Women’s Football League, which is down at the level of the Hebrew slaves! “Then Horton and Garton offered to sponsor the team, so with our new kit and our grant Ange McPhee juggles from in Ravenscourt Park. the She's pictured left council we with her teammates began.” Kelly Bowen and The team have Lumiere Chieh weekly warmups on the park’s astroturf pitch on Tuesday evenings from 7pm – a good place to turn up, introduce yourself and assess the standard. The first friendly was played at Wormwood Scrubs, but the club began playing regular games at Barn Elms, just over Hammersmith Bridge, and at the Old Meadonians ground near Barnes Bridge. Luke Craig, a central midfielder with Bedfont & Feltham FC who lives in Goldhawk Road, runs the summer coaching. Both he and Michael are involved with Shooting Starz, the multi-sport summer fun club in Ravenscourt Park. Captain Ange McPhee has played football ever since she was inspired to take up the sport by a visit to her secondary school by a female footballer. “My twin sister and I were immediately hooked,” she said. “Last year, after my first ever year with no It’s funny. Female fans get just as agitated about football as male fans. Anything to encourage players will boost women’s football, especially if England do well at the Euros football, I was desperate to find a team when I moved to London to start as a PE teacher in a school in Chelsea. “I’ve enjoyed making new friends through the team and I'm looking forward to next season, where promotion will see us face more challenging opposition.” Hammersmith Ladies came second in their league this season, and reached the semifinal of the cup. Next season the team will enter the Women’s FA Cup for the first time. “Technically we only have to win nine games and we’re at Wembley,” said Michael. There are eight divisions in women’s football. Hammersmith were in Div 3, and a re now in Div 2, with a realistic shot at Div 1 next year. That would open the way to the regional leagues. “My last team was in Wandsworth,” said Michael. “Within three years we’d gone up three levels and were playing CONTINUED ON PAGE 23> UEFA EURO 2016 CAN VARDY & KANE GIVE PAIN TO SPAIN? Will Harry Kane's form inspire England? T he month-long Euro 2016 tournament kicks off on Friday (June 10), with the continent’s top 24 national teams slugging it out for the trophy. Both the 2008 and 2012 competitions were won by Spain, in events staged in Switzerland/ Austria and Poland/Ukraine respectively. This time, France is hosting as Spain go for the hat-trick. The tournament’s theme is ‘celebrating the art of football’, with the mascot being Super Victor, a youngster who discovers a magic cape, boots and ball and becomes a pint-sized superhero. The teams are competing for the Henri Delaunay cup, named after the man who came up with the idea of a European championship. The silver trophy weighs 8 kilos and stands 60cm (2ft) tall. Each squad member of the winning team also gets a gold medal. What are England’s chances? Well, with in-form Leicester striker Jamie Vardy alongside free-scoring Spurs frontman Harry Kane, anything is possible. One of the critical games to watch for is England v Slovakia on June 20. It could propel the Lions into the Round of 16, after which there are just three steps to the final in Stade de France, Paris, on the evening of Sunday July 10.