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Jack the Lad: All hail the Swans Ladies

First of all, I have a confession to make. Before last Sunday afternoon, I had never watched a live game of women’s football.

I’m not sure why, but I’d just never got around to going to watch one.

This was probably partly due to laziness on my part. I’ve also never seen a live ice hockey match, despite spending season after season fully intending to go along to watch the Cardiff Devils play.

My absence from women’s football matches was also partly down to plain ignorance on my part. Having rarely watched any women’s football on TV, I didn’t know what I was missing.

I have to admit, until I watched the excellent documentary ‘Wales football: The Women in Red’, I hadn’t realised the level of skill and commitment, along with the professional attitude, involved in the women’s game in this country. And all that is despite the fact that the vast majority of players are amateurs.

The impressive standards in this country were further emphasised by the fantastic performance by the Welsh team in gaining a 0-0 World Cup draw against England’s professional-packed team at Southampton a couple of weeks ago.

Everything from the Welsh team’s impeccable singing of the anthem to their tactical organisation against an England team ranked third in the world was impressive.

So last Sunday afternoon, I decided to head off to Cardiff City Stadium to watch Swansea City Ladies take on their Cardiff City counterparts in the FAW Women’s Cup final.

I think even the most ardent supporters of women’s football would have admitted the early stages of the match weren’t the greatest.

But to be fair to the players on both sides, this was probably down to the unfamiliarity of playing in the Cardiff City Stadium, cup final nerves and a greasy pitch which was made even more difficult to judge by constant showers.

How many times have we seen showpiece men’s games not living up to pre-match expectations?

As the players settled into the match, however, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the level of commitment shown on both sides, and no little skill.

Some of the tackles which flew in – while perfectly fair – could be classed firmly in the crunching category!

Having played in the notoriously physical Neath League for over 20 years, I’m no stranger to a robust challenge.

But some of the tackles had me wincing in the stands and feeling grateful I wasn’t out on the pitch.

Much has been said in the modern men’s game about defenders losing the art of tackling.

Well, I can report the art is very much alive and well in the women’s game.

Having gone a goal down, largely against the run of play, the Swans Ladies showed great character to come back and equalise through a nerveless penalty from Jodie Passmore.

They then went ahead thanks to a long-range effort from Katy Hosford.

When the final whistle sounded, the celebrations on the pitch were every bit as frenzied as they would have been if Carlos Carvalhal’s team had beaten Cardiff City on their own turf.

And why not? They had every right to be. The Swans Ladies had swept aside all before them in the previous rounds and now they had beaten the club’s historic rivals on their own patch.

It doesn’t come much better than that.

With the Welsh international team still riding high in their World Cup qualifying group, and the Swans Ladies lifting more silverware, hopefully more and more local youngsters will be inspired to take up the women’s game, and more lazy football fans like me will be there to cheer them on.

C’mon you Swans!

 

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