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Wales striker Harries relishing background role

Gwennan Harries, senior Wales striker cum media officer, tells UEFA.com about her double life working with the women's U19s and the revolution coach Jarmo Matikainen has inspired.

Wales striker cum media officer Gwennan Harries on Swansea beach by the team's tournament HQ
Wales striker cum media officer Gwennan Harries on Swansea beach by the team's tournament HQ ©Sportsfile

There is plenty of footballing talent in and around the UEFA European Women's Under-19 Championship, but Wales's media officer has warranted a second look.

Gwennan Harries, 25, is a regular in the senior Wales side, with over 50 caps, but here the Welsh-speaking Bristol Academy WFC forward has been in less familiar territory. "I have done a lot of media work in the past, mainly due to the fact I am bilingual," Harries told UEFA.com.

"Jarmo [Matikainen, Wales's women's U19 and senior manager], being as thorough in his preparations as he always is, didn't want his players being overawed by the increased media attention this competition attracts. He saw me as someone who could act as spokesperson on their behalf, to help keep their focus firmly on their football. It's a tremendous honour and a privilege to be involved in what is such a prestigious event for women's football in Wales."

Although her Welsh shirt has been replaced by a Football Association of Wales (FAW) suit during these finals, Harries has nonetheless been keen to pass on her knowledge and experience to a squad that bowed out on Sunday. "The girls came to me for advice and I have also been involved in training with the squad," she added. "It's a pleasure to work with young girls who are really keen to improve and develop themselves.

"I've been really impressed with their attitude as I can see how much they want to learn and improve certain aspects of their game. They understand that they have to listen and take things on board if they are going to make it into the senior side. They are a really hard-working and determined group – they deserved to be on this stage."

If Harries was impressed by how Wales acquitted themselves on the pitch, she was equally pleased with what she saw off it. "It was really encouraging to see so many youngsters in the crowd," she said. "This tournament is showing young girls there are role models in the women's game that they can look up to and emulate. Hopefully, they will be inspired to get involved, whether it be playing, refereeing or volunteering."

Reflecting on her own experiences as a football-loving youngster, Harries recognises how important it is to have something to aspire to. "When I was coming through the ranks the only female player I knew about was Kath Morgan and later Jayne Ludlow. Jayne has so much passion for the women's game in Wales, it's incredible. She demands so much from herself and her team-mates, it's that sort of drive that makes her such an inspirational figure."

Harries has noticed a significant improvement in the Welsh women's game since she came through the youth ranks, and is in no doubt about the catalyst for recent advances. "Jarmo being appointed [in 2010] was huge. It was vital we had somebody involved full time with the whole structure to ensure each age group play the same way, with the same footballing philosophies. He has been absolutely brilliant and we are seeing the benefits of his hard work.

"I'm really optimistic about the future of women's football in Wales. Playing in and hosting competitions like this can only help. There has been more press coverage of women's football since the [2012] Olympics, but we still need more in Wales. If that awareness can improve, along with some additional funding, we can build on the professional standards Jarmo has set. We might only be 'little Wales', but we are slowly but surely proving we can compete at a higher level."

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