“From the primary time I kicked a ball for my native staff, I knew that was it. That is what I needed to do,” Leah Williamson advised Miss Vogue over the telephone. Signing for the Arsenal women staff at age 9, it wasn’t until Leah turned 15 that she realised that being an expert footballer might develop into a full-time profession. Along with her love of soccer stemming from her mom’s aspect of the household, all of whom are die-hard Gooners, the defender has now been referred to as as much as the primary staff squad. She has additionally risen via the ranks of the England youth groups and made her Lionesses debut in November 2017. “I am very patriotic”, Leah defined. “So, something to signify my nation, I used to be at all times going to seize that chance with each arms.”
Leah is the face of Nike’s new Air Max 1 vary, starring in her first solo marketing campaign for the sportswear label, which was shot totally by an all-female inventive staff and provides unique colourways for ladies. So, how necessary is the assist of massive manufacturers like Nike in elevating the profile of girls’s soccer? “As soon as Nike partnered with the England soccer staff, there was a large drive within the ladies’s sport,” she notes. “Once I discovered they needed to work with me, I completely jumped on the probability. The model is so influential within the sport, it may solely be an excellent factor that they’re actually investing within the ladies’s aspect now. I believe it additionally brings out the competitors from all the opposite manufacturers, very similar to the lads’s sport.”
After record-breaking viewing figures on the UEFA Girls’s EURO that reached an viewers of 165 million with over 20 million followers getting concerned on social media, how are attitudes in direction of ladies’s soccer altering? “I believe it is received an enormous half to do with the success on the pitch,” Leah explains. “As a nationwide staff, the England ladies have performed rather well on the worldwide stage – and at membership stage, the league’s getting extra aggressive. We’re additionally far more accessible now, you possibly can flick on a channel now and watch us, which could not be performed earlier than.”
However whereas ladies’s soccer has advanced so massively within the UK and around the globe in the previous few years, what would Leah like to alter in regards to the notion of the game sooner or later? “I believe I simply need it to be extra regular”, the star reveals. “I would like individuals to not be shocked once I say I am an expert footballer, particularly for youthful ladies, trying up and realising that it may be a pathway for them in the event that they’re ok.”
As a girl footballer, Leah has to inevitably cope with stereotypes. “Probably the most inaccurate is that we won’t play,” she revealed. “We’re very expert and folks simply do not give us an opportunity simply because we’re not as quick or as sturdy as the lads.”
An avid social media person with over 76,000 followers on Instagram, how does Leah play her half past the pitch? “As an expert footballer, it’s a must to settle for that you’ve a twin accountability,” she defined. “Not solely are you there to be a footballer and for individuals to return and watch, however ladies footballers have a large accountability to develop the sport. Whether or not that is via interacting with followers or working that bit tougher to get our message on the market and present what we are able to do. We have to be seen in our personal sport, in our personal proper and never at all times in comparison with our male counterparts. I attempt to reside by instance, displaying younger ladies, and ladies of my technology that these obstacles must be damaged down. If somebody is nice sufficient to play, they need to be allowed irrespective of their intercourse.”
Regardless of her tender age of 20, the star has rapidly risen via the ranks to the primary staff. So what recommendation would Leah give for aspiring athletes? “Be able to take criticism, study and get higher – and be assured, you would be shocked how far that may take you and what number of battles are misplaced simply by feeling self-conscious”.
Leah Williamson wears the brand new Nike Air Max 1 Womens Spring ’18 Assortment, obtainable from March 12 on nike.com