20 July 2012
Megan gets behind the scenes access to Casey's Team GB experience.....
On Saturday I was lucky enough to get one foot in the bubble that is Team GB Women’s Football Team. I travelled to Leicester, to claim my visitor’s pass to meet up with teammate Casey Stoney and find out what the first week of being an Olympian was like.
Casey, head to toe in Team GB adidas stash with a beaming smile to match, came out of Champneys Luxury Spa Hotel, (which they shared with the men’s team for a day) to greet me.
As we walked through the corridors of the hotel, decorated with 90’s TV stars Casey was excited to get me back to her room and show off her masses of kit and numerous London 2012 gifts. The enormity of what she and the rest of the Team GB were experiencing started to hit me. I lead with the inevitable question; what’s it been like? Her beaming smile grew even more “just incredible, a absolute whirlwind but the most unbelievable experience ever”
Women’s football was introduced into the Olympics in 1996, with the USA claiming the first Gold medal on home soil and have pretty much menopolised the tournament ever since, with a further 2 golds and one silver (unsurprisingly they are favourites for this years competition). Casey explained “The Americans hold this tournament in the highest regards, equal to the World Cup, and that is exactly how I see it. The Olympics is the pinnacle of an athletes career and that is no different in women’s football. The fact it is in our own country just emphasises the point even more”
Team GB women’s football team will make history when they walk out in the Millennium Stadium on 25th July, the first event of London 2012 and they will be lead by a very proud captain Casey. “Their has never been a women’s GB side before so to be part of it is special but then to be named captain as well, is such a massive honour. I don’t think it gets much better than this” Casey explained.
The male team has come in for major criticism, labeled as a glorified U23 tournament, that isn’t taken seriously in this country. With people more worried about their premiership stars getting niggles and injuries that could impact on the up coming season, then proposing a medal threat.
I was interested to hear Casey’s view on the matter as the both the male and female teams have been in close proximity Casey assures me the time spent with the men has been great “They are as excited and amazed by this whole experience as we are, both Stuart and Hope have spoken to us and have emphsised that both teams are here for the long haul. The men feel blessed like we do to be part of this and we have mixing together as one big Team GB team, some of the girls have even taught them a lesson or two on the pool table”
Team GB is made up of 18 players, a further 4 ‘P players’ also travel and train with the team incase of injury. The 22 strong women’s squad has a strong English feel with 18 representatives, Scotland has 3 girls and Northern Ireland 1.
Casey explained “the first weeks emphasis has been on integrating players, and establishing a good team spirit amongst the group. We had a great day off at Tankmania for some fun team building activities, everyone got into the spirit of things, dressed in full camouflage gear. We also went out for a team meal, which was a strictly no phone zone, so it enabled us to engage with each other and find out a few things we never knew before.”
“If we are going to be successful it is important that we have a strong team ethos, as unlike other countries we do not play in our national teams together” Casey added.
The girls were allowed off site for the night and speaking to a few of them it was a welcome break back to normality, as the first week had been anything but. “Seeing you their nearest and dearest is always a nice way to relax” Casey explained “It is an important part of the week, as we get to share our experience with the people that mean the most to us”
Casey and I went for food, and over a carb filled meal (they played a behind close doors friendly the following day) Casey showed me photos of their 4 hour kitting out expereince at Loughborough University, her photos from the addidas athletes booth, together with snaps of her and Giggsy.
My leaving question of can you medal was greeted with the professional response you’d expect from a player with 103 caps to her name “we need to get out of our group, and then see who we get in the quarters then go from there” Her eyes found it hard to back up this statement, as I saw a glistening in them which had a curious resemblance to a medal, and who can blame her as she is about to enter into the biggest sporting even this country has ever seen.