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A top Scots soccer side will be forced to play their biggest game of the season without their star striker - because she's PREGNANT.

Hotshot Kirsty Gunn was gutted to find she couldn't join her National women's squad team- mates when they set the park alight tomorrow in a red-hot clash with England.

But she insists she'll pitch herself back into the team as soon as she's had her baby.

She said: "I'm sick as a parrot about missing the game on Saturday.I'm delighted about the baby, but not being able to play football was my first thought when I found out I was expecting.''

Accounts assistant Kirsty, 23, of Gorebridge, Midlothian, is just one of the women enjoying the success of the sport as women's football comes of age in Scotland.

As one of the females pulling on a football jersey to make more than just a style statement, she's forgotten all about Girl Power and is concentrating on Goal Power.

But tomorrow, as Scotland's credible new women's side take on the Auld Enemy, Kirsty will be forced to watch from the sidelines.

Playing has been ruled out until she has her first child, which is due on Valentine's Day.

She joked: "It's awful not being able to play. As soon as I have the baby, I'll pass it to the midwife and head for training right away. Seriously, it's a great game for any youngster - girl or boy. I'm just so sad I can't play on Saturday."

Tomorrow's game at Almondvale Stadium, Livingston, marks an historic moment for women's football in Scotland.

It's exactly 25 years since the first international game was played between Scotland and England - and for the first time, the women will play in an official international strip, sponsored by sports giants Umbro.

And after the weekend clash, the squad are heading off for Estonia and Lithuania at the end of the month, to play in the Women's World Cup qualifiers.

AS the fastest growing sport in the country, the number of registered players has shot up from 400 to more than 2800 in the last six years.

Maureen McGonigle, of the Scottish Women's Football Association, says the national side is ambitious and hungry for success.

She said: "They are very determined - they had to be to reach this level. Most are fitting training round jobs or studies and some have to travel long distances to play.

"We face a tough fight on Saturday because the English are good. They made the world championships and are rated in the top 16. They also have some advantages over us in that they go to training camps before they play."

Although the Scottish public are only just beginning to take women's football seriously, other countries recognised the importance of the sport years ago.

In Brazil, women players are treated as celebrities - just like their male counterparts.

While playing in the European Championships there a couple of years ago, Maureen was flanked in the dugout by two burly armed policemen, assigned for her personal protection.

And she was glad of their assistance when the Scottish team was forced to play against a hail of coins and bottles thrown by the crowd.

Maureen added: "Passions run high in South America, whether it's men or women playing. There were some dirty tricks on the park, but they were still the best team we have ever played.Brazilian TV companies show women's football games live, and there is a lot of interest."

Maureen reckons the future looks bright for young women who would love a career in football. She added: "Women have a passion for the game. Some of the most loyal fans are female, so we are building for the future with a strong support."

Despite their enthusiasm, however, cash problems have hampered the SWFA's plans to expand the sport. They are also battling against old- fashioned chauvinism.

Maureen said: "There are some stick-in-the-muds who think they are protecting girls from injury by not letting them play. But it's no more dangerous than crossing the street."

This year, for the first time, the Scottish Schools Football Association are offering a contest for girls.

Maureen added: "Girls don't punt the ball up and down the park like a tennis match. They have to use more skill to compensate for their lack of physical strength.

"Eventually our game should be more entertaining."

1 Sales assistant Margaret Ross, 25, from Balintor, Inverness- shire, is a forward with Aberdeen.

She said: "I have to travel to play, but it's worth it. Football rules my life and I love scoring goals. Football rules my life."

2 Accounts assistant Kirsty Gunn, 23, from Gorebridge, Midlothian, is a striker.

"I love football and it's a sport that I'd encourage all kids to play.

"Attitudes are changing and it's great for girls."

3 Shop worker Michelle Barr, 18, from Shotts, is a sweeper with Cumbernauld.

"Being in the Scotland squad is a great honour.

"Winning is the best feeling imaginable. I hope we beat England on Saturday."

4 Accountancy student Claire Smith, 20, from Forfar, is centre half with Giullianos, Edinburgh.

"It's more acceptable for girls to play now - we're lucky. I'm sure some of the critics would be surprised at how good we are."

5 Fitness instructor Cath Major, 22, from Aberdeen, is a centre back with Cove Rangers.

"As a kid, I was only allowed to play in the reserves but it's a different story now. It's been great to be able to prove myself and play for Scotland."

6 Schoolgirl Julie Fleeting, 16, of Kilwinning, Ayrshire, is a forward with Ayr United.

"Playing for Scotland has always been my dream. My family are really proud and they'll be coming to watch me play on Saturday."

7 Schoolgirl Mhairi Gilmour, 16, from Kilmarnock, is a midfielder with Ayr Utd.

"I joined my first team when I was eight years old, and I've never looked back.

"I'll be nervous on Saturday, but I'll cope."

8 Sheila Begbie, coach.

9 Millar Hay, coach.

17 Margaret McGough, coach.

PE student Debbie McWhinnie, 16, from Edinburgh, is a midfielder with Cumbernauld.

"Guys used to think I wasn't a very good player - but then I beat them and that changed their minds. It was a good feeling."

Sports centre worker Lyndsay Hart, 19, from Glasgow, is a midfielder with Clyde.

"I'll be nervous before the game, but I'll watch Braveheart before it and that will make me want to get stuck into them."

Schoolgirl Gemma Fay, 16, from Perth, is goalkeeper with GFC St Johnstone.

"I grew up with three brothers and had no choice but to play football. I was never into dolls.

"My aim is to get a scholarship to play in the States. That would be fantastic. I can't wait for Saturday to come."

Shop worker Leanne Griffen, 16, from Dundee, is goalkeeper with Ayr Utd.

"I love the excitement and the competition of football. I never really wanted to do anything else.

"You miss out on a social life a bit, but it's worth it. My pals all said I would play for Scotland."

PE student Joanne McWilliam, 18, from Afford, Aberdeen-shire, is a goalkeeper with Cove Rangers.

"I love the game. I've been playing football since primary school and I can't wait to get out there and play my heart out.

"It's going to be a really exciting game."

Postie Yvonne Alexander, 22, from Inverurie, is goalkeeper for Kemnay.

"I'd like to make a career in football but it's still hard in Britain.

"If I was made an offer by a foreign club, I would jump at the chance."

Chef Catherine Lafferty, 19, from Stirling, is a forward with Stirling Albion.

"I'm surprised I've come so far, but it's worth any sacrifice.

"If any girls are interested in football I'd tell them to go for it. It's becoming really popular."

Geography student Angie Murchison, 21, from Aberdeen, is a midfielder with Aberdeen.

"I played England before and they were fitter than us. We're fitter this time round, though, and I'm sure we'll do well."

Unemployed Pauline Hammill, 25, from Airdrie, is a centre forward with Cumbernauld.

"I played boys' football to start with and I then joined the local ladies team. I love the game just as much as any man."

Factory worker Agnes Hutton, 34, from Larkhall, is a full back with Cumbernauld.

"I've played football since I was a tot and I absolutely love the game. My nephews boast about their auntie playing for Scotland."

PE student Pauline McDonald, 22, from Markinch, Fife, is captain and midfielder with Cumbernauld.

"You need a real competitive streak to be a good female player - something I have. We'll go for it on Saturday."

Clerk Jackie Bertie, 30, who lives in Liverpool, is a midfielder with Everton.

"People think it's butch, but women's football is glamorous now.

"I always want to be involved in football - even if it's only on the coaching side."

Oil company worker Nicky Bain, 21, from Aberdeen, is a full back with Aberdeen.

"Saturday will be tough, but my dad will be screaming advice at me from the stand. My friends and family really help me out."

PE graduate Nicky Grant, 22, from Elgin, is a midfielder with Cumbernauld.

"I've been with the squad five years and I'm looking forward to getting one over on the Auld Enemy.

"It will be a really exciting game and we're up for it."

Schoolgirl Denise Brolly, 16, from Coat-bridge, is a midfielder with Cumbernauld.

"It was hard getting the boys to accept me as a footballer at first, but now it's not a problem. I'll be crushed if we lose."
COPYRIGHT 1997 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Clarke, Julia
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 22, 1997
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