WWC17ca PREVIEW: Great Britain
Great Britain veteran coach Jim Messenger attended the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championship in Finland as an observer hoping to one day see his nation participate in the tournament.
Fast-forward four years and Messenger, the team’s GM, will see his dream come true as Great Britain enters the tournament in Langley. They’ll do as the European runner-up, falling to Finland in the championship game after defeating original Women’s World Championship participants Sweden and Germany.
Great Britain opens their inaugural tournament in a 2015 European Championship finals rematch against Finland. If Messenger’s side can defeat the defending two-time bronze medalist, they’ll face another tough test in two-time silver medalist and host nation, Canada.
An opening day loss by Great Britain would put them in an even tougher second day matchup against the two-time defending gold medalist, the United States.
Great Britain’s women’s national team program has come a long way in a short amount of time. Regardless of the team’s outcome, they’ll build on the experience moving forward.
Women’s tackle football in Great Britain
In early 2013 the British American Football Association (BAFA) sowed the seeds for women’s football by appointing veteran coach Jim Messenger to lead development of domestic competitions and try to form a national team to drive awareness of the sport for women. In July, Messenger attended the 2013 Women’s World Championship in Finland as an observer. At that time, there was no domestic competition for women players and ‘Team Great Britain’ consisted of just Messenger and fellow coach Richard Ward. They returned home with a dream that maybe one-day a Great Britain women’s team could attend a World Championship.
A five a-side exhibition game organised against a team from Sweden later in that year proved the catalyst to attract women to try the sport. From that humble beginning the women’s game started to grow. In 2014 a women’s national championship was launched, the so-called BAFA Sapphire Series, and six teams entered the first year of competition. Meanwhile, a fledgling national team played their first full international game in 2014 in Stockholm, surprisingly defeating the Sweden national team.
With momentum building, BAFA entered their women’s GB team into the 2015 European championship where, to their delight, the Great Britain team won through to the final after defeating women’s football powerhouse, Germany, and Sweden again. Great Britain were defeated in the final by an experienced Finland team but won great respect by finishing as silver medalists in their first ever tournament.
The domestic women’s game continues to grow in Britain and in 2017 eighteen club teams took part the BAFA Sapphire Series.
This post is also available in: French