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Julie Fleeting.

SCOTLAND's male footballers may be struggling to kick a ball between them at the moment.

But one of the most talented female athletes in the country has showed them how it should be done - by setting the biggest women's football league in the world alight.

Two months ago, 21-year-old Julie Fleeting left her home in Ayrshire for California and the glamorous world of professional women's football in the US.

The Scotland ladies captain arrived in San Diego at the start of July to fulfil an ambition that most women would not even imagine possible - to play soccer for a living.

And as soon as she landed, hot-shot striker Julie made an immediate impact for her team, the San Diego Spirit - scoring a last-minute winner in her first game and banging in an edge- of-the-box belter on her home debut.

After her successful season, Julie is back in Scotland and is now waiting for the call that means she will be asked back next year.

But in the meantime, she says she is just enjoying being home and with her boyfriend Colin Stewart - himself a pro with Kilmarnock - after two months away.

"It really was everything I could have hoped for and I just hope I get the chance to keep on playing football for a living. I've been playing since I was a little girl and it was amazing to get a chance like that to play at such a high standard.

"The women's league over there is professional and very organised - we play in excellent grounds with full houses in front of thousands of fans who come every week.

"It's amazing to score goals in front of big crowds who all cheer for you - I feel very lucky and I really loved all of it."

Julie had been playing for local ladies side Ayr United for six years when she was approached by scouts from the women's side in California.

Having scored almost 80 goals for Scotland in 59 games and 300 for Ayr, Julie is well regarded as one of the outstanding Scottish talents in the game.

And after finishing her exams for her PE teaching degree this spring, she jetted out to join the Spirit at the start of the summer.

She says: "The other girls were really great - there are a lot of women who play for the USA national team, which is one of the best in the world, so there's a lot of quality.

"But everyone was really nice to me, although when I first arrived, I was called Shrek because of my accent."

Although her team's poor season meant they eventually finished second bottom of the WUSA soccer league, Julie was delighted to get a taste of the big time.

She adds: "I got to live near the beach on the California coast and play football as my job - it was amazing and I'd be delighted to go back."
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUS
Date:Sep 28, 2002
Words:486
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