Woman footballer shifts her goalposts in US

6th February 1998 at 00:00
British teenage goalkeeper Rachel Brown has won a scholarship worth up to $20,000 (Pounds 12,500) to study football at university in Alabama.

The 17-year-old will spend four years guarding the goals on the other side of the Atlantic after taking her A-levels at Nelson and Colne College in Lancashire.

Rachel became interested in football when she was a child and has played in goal since she was eight. At school her teachers refused to let her play but her parents finally persuaded her PE teacher at her junior school to allow her to join the boys' teams.

She then played for two boys' teams until she was 11. At 12 she played for Accrington Ladies and is now goalie for Liverpool Ladies and an established member of England's women's squad.

Alabama was one of three American universities to offer her a place. She has spent the past two summers in the state playing football.

She says: "They must have seen me playing in Alabama and liked my style. And I would never be able to get training like that over here. It just doesn't exist."

Her scholarship will pay for her accommodation, books, tuition and food. She will be coached in goalkeeping by a full-time coach who was sent to visit Rachel in Britain to persuade her to take up the university's offer.

Off the field she will study for a degree in sport or physiotherapy which will stand her in good stead for her future. After returning to Britain, no matter how skilled she has become, as a woman she is unlikely to have a future in the professional game.

She adds: "I'll play the game for as long as I can."

However, she is cheered that the Football Association's director Howard Wilkinson has recently been developing women's football and is strongly encouraging women's coaching. "It's a start but not enough for her to stay, " he said.

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