Republic World Cup team ‘catalyst’ to inspire next generation – Megan Campbell

Republic of Ireland defender Megan Campbell was “gutted” not to be able to join her nation at the Women’s World Cup but believes the team’s participation at the tournament is a “catalyst” to inspire the next generation of football fans.

The centre-back for Liverpool and the Republic was not chosen as part of Vera Pauw’s squad for the tournament in Australia and New Zealand after being unable to recover in time from an unspecified injury.

The Republic crashed out of the tournament with just one point from three group-stage games after Monday’s goalless draw with Nigeria, but despite this Campbell said the support shown for the team has been “incredible”.

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023

Liverpool’s Megan Campbell, centre, watches England v China with schoolchildren during a ‘Football Fun Day’ at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham (Fabio De Paola/PA)

“I joined in with many thousands of other fans from Ireland as the whole country was backing the team and watching the games, and the amount of Irish support Down Under has been incredible,” the 30-year-old told the PA news agency.

“What an opportunity for the girls to be able to put Ireland on the biggest stage possible and it’s only the start for this team.

“It’s a catalyst, hopefully, for building for the future generations.”

She also commended the quality of football at this year’s World Cup, describing it as a “great spectacle” following England’s win over China in the final round of the group stage.

Campbell said England had “come out all guns blazing” after beating China 6-1 on Tuesday.

“I think it’s been a great spectacle for women’s football and shows how close the games have been… in general the scorelines have been quite narrow so this shows that the level is improving all over the world,” she said.

Campbell felt the Lionesses experienced “a lot of pressure” going into this year’s World Cup, following their European Championship win, but said they had successfully achieved their objective of winning every group-stage match.

“I think they probably have a lot of pressure coming into the tournament off the back of winning the Euros and that was to be expected, obviously, because they have done so well,” she said.

“But it’s about winning games in the group stages, and that’s what they’ve done and they’ve managed to achieve that by getting nine points out of nine.”

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023

Campbell, left, and Chelsea’s Katerina Svitkova with pupils from St Vincent’s Primary School in Birmingham collecting their trophy (Fabio De Paola/PA)

In a bid to make women’s football more visible, particularly in schools, Campbell and Czech Republic and Chelsea midfielder Katerina Svitkova joined more than 100 schoolgirls at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham on Tuesday to inspire the next generation of children to play football.

“It’s been a lovely atmosphere here. Probably close enough to an atmosphere Down Under, I’d say, as the kids are quite loud,” Campbell said.

The Republic and Liverpool player said there were some “hidden talents” at the Football Fun Day event brought together by Visa and HSBC.

“There have been some girls who probably haven’t played football before for a team who will now sign up for teams because they love being here and feel inspired by the day,” she said.

“I think the job’s complete, and we’ve probably done a really good one if girls now want to play football.”

She hopes increased visibility of women’s football will create new role models for young children to be inspired by.

“With the women’s football team doing so well, it’s great to have this off the back of it to inspire the next generations,” she said.

“That’s what this is about, trying to inspire the next generations to play football but also just for girls in general and in life to have models to look up to regardless of if it’s football or not.”

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023

Campbell and Svitkova with pupils from Sacred Heart Primary School in Birmingham (Fabio De Paola/PA)

She also hopes that more visibility of the Women’s Super League will help to inspire more children to watch the game.

“I think the league will only grow this year and participation will increase, which is the most important thing overall.

“It’s about the here and now, but it’s also about the future generations and what we can provide for them.”

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