The announcement that two former England players will become the first ever women to play in charity football match Soccer Aid is the latest ‘baby step’ on the road to ensuring that female athletes have the same opportunities as men.
Katie Chapman and Rachel Yankey will play alongside other ex-professional players and celebrities in the game, which will raise money for UNICEF.
Chapman enjoyed plenty of success with the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal during her career, in addition to being capped 94 times by England.
Yankey won every trophy in English football with Arsenal and made 129 appearances for the national side. She says she is honoured to be asked by UNICEF to take part in the match.
“Soccer Aid for UNICEF’s ambition is to ‘defend play for every child’, so I will be proud to play my part in doing just that,” she said.
“I also hope Katie and I can continue to serve as role models to girls around the world to get involved in football.”
Olympic champion sprinter Usain Bolt, One Direction star Niall Horan and TV presenter Susanna Reid are all involved in the event, alongside the likes of Didier Drogba, Jamie Redknapp and Sam Allardyce.
A group of researchers from Brunel University will monitor the match as part of an FA study into mixed participation in football.
The Football Association’s head of women’s football, Baroness Campbell, believes Chapman and Yankey’s involvement in the game will help to drive the popularity of the women’s game.
“It will be great to showcase women’s football as part of Soccer Aid for UNICEF ahead of the World Cup in the summer,” she said.
“We are delighted to be able to work with Soccer Aid for UNICEF as we continue our research of mixed football.
“This has seen the rules changing in recent years to allow boys and girls to play mixed football together and this match will be part of our continuing research into mixed adult recreational football.”
While the news is undoubtedly a positive step for women’s football, it has certainly been a long time coming.
Mixed adult football is common elsewhere in the world, with countries like the United States and New Zealand embracing the ethos on a social basis.
England remains a long way behind many other nations, but this latest development will hopefully play its part in helping the women’s game flourish in the future.
Soccer Aid takes place at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium on June 16 and is an England versus a World XI match.
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