The UEFA European Women's Under-17 Championship starts in England one month from now and two of the nation's most famous female footballing names, Faye White and Sue Smith, have given their backing to the tournament.
Retired former England captain White and 93-times capped winger Smith, familiar as BBC pundits as well as for their on-field exploits, were on hand to make the draw at Burton Town Hall on Thursday. There they matched England with finals debutants Italy, Austria and Portugal, while pitting neighbours Scotland against former winners Germany and Spain plus three-time runners-up France.
Although ex-Arsenal LFC defender White and Doncaster Rovers Belles LFC player Smith came of age before UEFA introduced youth tournaments, they told UEFA.com about the benefits such events bring and why fans should get tickets for the matches in Burton-upon-Trent, Chesterfield, Hinckley and Telford between 26 November and 8 December.
Faye White, capped 90 times
I think it'll be well supported in the local area, and regarding the quality we see that senior tournaments improve year on year and that's the same case at younger levels. All the teams, the likes of Germany, are always formidable in the youth tournaments. I am sure it'll be a great occasion and a great opportunity for the young girls that represent their country to get vital tournament experience at such a young age.
I went straight into the seniors at 16, but it's great that they're playing with the same age group – when they do come into the seniors or move to the Under-19s, 20s, 23s, they come in with such a better knowledge of the game, their skills are so much improved, as is their game understanding, what it takes to play in a tournament. My first championship experience playing for the senior team was the [FIFA Women's] World Cup in 2007, at the age of about 28, so for them to have this opportunity at such a young age is wonderful.
[Fans] should come and support their countries but it's also a good opportunity for young girls and boys in the area to see some good skills from young players who are passionate about playing the game and passionate about playing for their countries. Whatever age you are, when you put on that shirt to represent your country, they have a lot of pride. I am sure they'll see a good level of skill and ability at a time when the game is growing so much in this country, so go along. The [kick-off] times are when schoolchildren and families will be able to go along so hopefully the support will be really good.
Sue Smith, capped 93 times
It's fantastic to have these tournaments now for the development of young players. When myself and Faye first started we were both 16 and going in to play full international football, which can be quite daunting and difficult for a player. The fact they're playing among girls of the same age and physical strength means they can progress through the ranks and hopefully progress to the seniors. It is so important to have tournaments like this.
I would say to everyone, as much as they can, go down and support the girls, it will definitely help the girls on the pitch. It's a chance to watch potential future senior international players – I know the likes of Gemma Bonner and Jade Moore, who are playing in the seniors, started off at U17s and were very successful. It's a chance to bring younger girls, primary school girls, to say these are your role models, you can aspire to be these one day. So definitely go down and watch, because there will be some talented footballers on show.
I think you have to say England [to win] just because I am English and the fact they are at home – that's a plus for them. I know they've done well in previous tournaments so the expectations are quite high, but there's going to be a lot of teams, Spain and others. Poland won last year. There's a lot of talent out there.
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