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West Ham United midfielder urges big brands to “see the value” in backing women’s football

West Ham United Women midfielder Brianna Visalli says she is eager to build on what has been an impressive first season in England.

The 24-year-old joined the Hammers from Chicago Red Stars last summer and played a key role as the club took on the challenge of playing in the Women’s Super League.

West Ham secured a mid-table finish in the league, but it was their progression to the final of the FA Cup that made the biggest headlines.

Visalli featured as a second-half substitute against Manchester City at Wembley, but she was unable to prevent the North West side from claiming the trophy.

Read on as WomensFootball.co.uk chats to Visalli about her aims for next season, the potential for future growth of the women’s game and more.

It’s been a great first season for West Ham United Women, with many highlights including reaching the FA Cup final, so what are your aims for next season?

I think for next year we’re obviously wanting to build on this year, and potentially be in the top half of the league. Personally, I would like to have a bigger role and a bigger impact within the group, especially coming into a new league and new country.

I always have high standards for myself and high hopes, but ultimately I think next year I can really grow into the player that I want to be. Hopefully next year you’ll see a little bit more action for me and a little bit more impact within the games.

Who is your favourite football player?

Eden Hazard – I really like the way he plays a false number nine almost. He tracks into the pockets and is he’s out on the wings with the ball, attracting players to him at times and then it can open up spaces for his teammates.

He is a really effective player, one that’s underrated at times, and yeah, I would love to model my game on him.

What’s your prediction for the Women’s World Cup this summer?

It’s hard to say this year actually. I think if I had to pick a top three it would be France, USA and England.

I think England can surprise a lot of people this year as you’ve seen in that SheBelieves Cup, so I don’t think it’s really anyone’s for the taking this year, which is exciting, and I think it will be a really good year for the media coverage.

It’s going to be an amazing tournament and unpredictable, but I can’t give predictions because half of my teammates are on other teams, so go New Zealand, go Scotland and go South Korea!

What do you think needs to be done in the women’s game for it to have more impact and growth, and where do you see the opportunities?

I think it’s a bit difficult because it’s been this generational thing over the years, where it’s a mostly male-dominated sport.

Moving forward, I think us giving back to the community and reaching out to girls and making Academies an accessible thing, whereas in the past, a lot of the women that I play with today professionally didn’t have a women’s Academy.

I think starting that development system here in the UK is going to help boost and potentially grow the women’s game. That being said, I also think financially you see people that are wanting to come into women’s football like Barclays.

We need title sponsors like that and we need big corporations to come in and really see the value in women’s sport. I think that’s when you’ll start seeing the media coverage give people a greater understanding of what’s actually going on in the game.

For instance, I went to Paris for the weekend and I sat next to a couple of my age, and they had no idea that the World Cup was coming, which is kind of crazy to me because France is one of the stronger teams for the tournament.

I think it comes down to money and media coverage and, a lot of times, even how we’re going to go about bringing up the future generation. So, yeah, all through of those aspects for me.

What interests do you have outside of football?

It’s just going to sound so cliche and American, but I love working out! But I also like hiking and coffee, and I don’t mind surfing and being outdoors at the beach, those are my hobbies, I guess, and I like learning, which is really weird and random, but I always want to be learning something.

What originally made you get into football?

Originally it was day care for my parents. I was a four sport athlete growing up, and so we would use all those different seasons to potentially use free child care, I guess.

I started off picking daisies in the middle of our rec league and, from there, I would have to say some of the coaches and women that I worked with in that environment really inspired me to keep pushing.

And then in college, I had two teammates that went professional – when they turned pro I thought to myself ‘this is something that I’m passionate about’ and from there the rest is history.

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