Three Lions On Their Chest

I recall back in 1981 when as a young fresh faced 21 year old I was teaching Karate at a summer camp in deepest, darkest New York State, in the summer holidays. We were quite literally in the middle of nowhere, truly it was utterly isolated, and actually was quite close to the Canadian border, nestling in the very northern outreaches of New York State, which like many places in the UK was simply vast. Well, especially when you are a Brit, from a tiny Island like this one.

The camp itself was very well organised and it tended to be the same staff and indeed families that made the two month pilgrimage that was the Bunacamp summer holiday experience. The main teaching staff were made up of people like me, young mostly Brits, at teacher training College, along with a scattering of others from Europe. We were essentially enthusiastic and quite cheap labour. The deal from our perspective was actually quite a good one, you got your return flights paid for, and you got a two month contract teaching a bespoke sport for essentially between 5 and 8 hours a day. In my case I was teaching Karate but also other sports as required, and mostly football.

Back then I used to play a bit and had always enjoyed it, we used to coach the kids who varied in age from 6 up to 17. What really struck me back then was actually just how good the girls were, if honest they were much better than the boys, although they were far more preoccupied with American football and Baseball. The girls however although still keen on the traditional sports, really seemed to embrace Soccer, as they called it. I recall talking to one of the American counsellors who was teaching soccer, she said to me that within her lifetime the USA Women’s team would soon be the world champions. Naturally I was somewhat sceptical, but fair play, fast forward to July 2019 and guess what here we are about to witness the World Cup semi final between the USA, the current world champions about to play the Lionesses of England. The prophecy has long since been proven to be true, with the USA having been dominant for some years.

To be fair the sheer scale of girls playing football in the USA is massive, and the infrastructure is well thought out, as you might expect from such a huge and rich nation. However, what has also impressed me has been the improvement in the England team under the management of Gary Neville. To be honest a bit like when Gareth Southgate took over the men’s England team, I was a bit uncertain, but, credit where it is due, both teams have done really well under both leaders. I have actually really enjoyed watching the woman’s World Cup and hope England can go all the way. After all I am still living off former glories from 1966, which I amid enough to remember. Go on you Lioness’s maybe just maybe, its coming home

Written by Austin Birks

July 3, 2019

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