Welcome to women's football. Where have you been!?

UK journalist Richard Saunders chats to Perth Glory women's player Elisa D'Ovidio about Perth Glory and the future of women's football

Football.... It-s a sport we all love. A sport full of passion, determination, commitment, skill, speed and belief. It-s a game where athletes in peak physical condition compete for glory and success on the field of dreams. The women-s form of our favourite game is no exception. I-ve been a football fan all my life, following my national league in England, and cheering Premiership teams on in high profile competitions. In my youth I didn-t really consider the women-s game, as there was no direct route into the sport, no coverage or pub discussion. Since those early days though the game has come on leaps and bounds, and I have recently discovered the Westfield W-League in Australia, and a whole new avenue is laid out before me. I am a British football fan, who travels to Western Australia to watch the mighty Perth Glory play every year. I catch as many games as my time there will allow, and always enjoy the games and standard of play. But during my last few visits to the country, I have been turned onto the women-s division, and the array of talent that plies its trade there. I feel it-s my duty to tell fellow Glory fans, and the world, about the fantastic female team the Glory has, and the spectacular displays that can be seen regularly by the keen football fan.

There is a stigma to the women-s game that is totally unfounded. With this article I hope to open a few eyes, and wake people up. Not to an alternative Perth Glory team, but another incarnation of the glorious West Australian wonders we support on a regular basis. Because supporters need to stop thinking about it as the Perth Glory women-s team. It-s the same Perth Glory that needs support and can put on dazzling displays of the beautiful game. I think that-s what needs to be explained and publicised more. Those who dismiss or ignore the women-s game are depriving themselves of that feeling we-ve all had as fans. Discovering another way to watch and enjoy the sport. It all started with senior men-s football. But that has blossomed to include reserve team football, under 21-s, under 16-s, and so on. The women-s game is a legitimate option for the football fan. In the English game more so than Australia, the ladies competitions are quickly becoming a preferred option. With spiralling player wages, and consequently higher ticket prices, fans are choosing to support their team-s ladies side as a cheaper and often more exciting brand of football.

As a means of introduction to the Perth Glory women-s team, I offer this interview with young Glory starlet, and key first team regular Elisa D-Ovidio. A dynamic midfielder and passionate advocate of the female game in Australia. I-m sure Glory fans and soccer supporters worldwide will agree this intelligent and witty footballer offers some unique insights into the team, and the sport as a whole. So get behind her and the Glory ladies. They-re your team after all.

Elisa is a combative attacking midfielder for the Glory, who strives to both create and take chances in front of goal. Playing in a squad blessed with pace and ability she has shone, and is one of many bright stars in the ladies division. D-Ovidio is a regular first teamer who has already experienced a lot in her short career in the Westfield W-League. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Elisa, and she shared some thoughts about her passion for football, dressing room antics and camaraderie, as well as the future of women-s football in Australia.

So Elisa, were you always a football fan growing up?

I never actually had a specific team that I followed growing up, I just loved playing and watching the sport. Now I follow everything.

How did you get into playing the game?

My brother was the one who started teaching me at the age of seven. He used to play and I always followed him around. In the backyard he would set up some cones and ever since I have just loved it.

Being a Perth girl, how does it feel playing for the Glory?

I-m pretty happy with where I am at now. When the first season of Glory came along in 2008 I was pretty stoked to be part of the squad, and representing your State is always an honour and such a great feeling.

How do you see your role in the current Glory team, and what are your strengths on and off the field?

I think my role is pretty vital at times. Playing a number 10 position you always have to be supporting your strikers and midfielders, not only attacking but getting back and defending as well. So it-s quite a tough position. My strengths on the field I think I bring a lot of energy to the people around me as I-m always buzzing around and wanting to get stuck in. Off the field I think I-m a pretty bright person, always trying to encourage my teammates and leading by example with my actions when I can.

Who are your footballing heroes?

I must say Tim Cahill must be at the top of the list. Always in the right spot at the right time and very rarely makes a mistake in front of goal.

What-s it like being a female footballer in Australia today?

It-s not so bad. Some people know who you are and some don-t. When you tell them they become very interested, so word gets spread quite quickly.

What is the standard like in the Westfield W-League?

The standard of the Westfield W-League keeps growing and growing each year. The depth and development of players is becoming much bigger and the quality has improved immensely from previous years.

Having watched the senior Glory side play many times, I know the passion and enthusiasm that can be generated by the fans. What-s it like to play in front of such vehement support?

Yeah our fans are great, they-re always supporting us and sticking behind us. Our fans are growing each time and we-re hoping we get more and more each game.

How do you assess Perth ladies season so far, and what are your hopes for the coming months?

I think this year has probably been the best year we-ve had. We are playing consistent football each week, but I don-t think as a group we-ve achieved what we want yet. We take each game as it comes, of course making the finals is in the back of our minds but we need to focus on our next few games.

Should the women-s game be judged on a par with the men-s, or do the fundamental differences warrant it being considered as a separate discipline altogether?

I think the men-s game is somehow always going to be bigger than the women-s game. Although the women-s game is growing rapidly every day, starting from when the Westfield Matildas won the AFC Women-s Asian Cup last year. That was a big achievement in itself. I think when you-re at that higher level i.e. Perth Glory or Westfield Matildas, I think you should be recognised as much as the men. The Women-s World Cup is just around the corner.

Do you think Australia can improve on their impressive display in 2007?

The Westfield Matildas squad is always improving, with some young players coming through and the experience of the older players. There is no doubt I think they will do great in the World Cup.

What-s the mood like within the Perth squad at the moment? Is there a confidence and positivity towards where the club is heading right now, and the players it has?

The club has some fantastic players, with a mixture of Westfield Matildas and international players as well. With some young ones coming through and more experienced players, our depth has improved a lot. The club is always growing and we are lucky to have a playing group who are very positive towards each other, and always picking each other up when things don-t go to plan.

Tell us something about the atmosphere in the Glory dressing room:

Who is the hardest trainer on the team?

Katie Gill for sure. Always working hard.

Who-s the fastest in the side?

We have a few players in our team with some great pace, so I don-t think there is just one.

Who should have been a Brazilian, and has the best ball skills and trickery?

I would say probably Collette McCallum - she pulls tricks from nowhere!

Who-s the loudest on and off the field?

I think I have to say Sam Kerr. That girl is forever talking and thinking. She has such a loud and bubbly personality that you can hear her from a mile away and the best is she doesn-t care what people think.

Best singer in the shower?

Definitely Swedish international Alex Nilsson - she-s quality.

Who-s the biggest joker?

I-d say Sam Kerr again, always cracking jokes and playing jokes on people.

Any superstitions in the changing room?

Not that I know of haha.

What are your hopes for your career and women-s football in the next five years?

Not sure, wherever it takes me. In the next five years I hope the women-s side of football will keep growing and become as big as it is in the US and other countries. So I hope we get a lot more support in the future.

What would you be doing if you weren-t a footballer?

Good question - I-d have my own business - I love training people so probably personal trainer and diploma in fitness.

Do you have any advice for young girls getting into the game?

Just work and train hard and most of all enjoy it, because when you do you are a much better and confident player.

Any words for Perth Glory fans out there who are yet to discover the women-s division?

Just come down and support us. We always put on an entertaining game.

Where do you think the Westfield W-League is heading, and what improvements would you like to see in the near future?

The Westfield W-League I think will keep growing and hopefully in the future there will be more people, members, and sponsors coming on board. It is such a great league to be involved in and in the near future I-d like to see it be on par with the men-s, if not on par, then close enough to get the same exposure and support.