Lianne Sanderson: Nothing was going to stop me

Wednesday 20 Aug 2014
Lianne Sanderson told exactly what it means to her to be a footballer

From challenging beginnings in an era where very few girls played the sport she loves, Lianne Sanderson has come a long way.

She grew up a football-mad child in a football-mad family in south-east London – and always had a steely determination to succeed.

“From the age of five I just knew I wanted to be a professional footballer, which is weird because there wasn’t even a league around then,” she recalls.

“No girls really played and I was the only girl in a boys’ team. 

"But I just knew nothing was going to stop me from accomplishing my dream. And my dream was always to be a footballer.”

Lianne Sanderson in action for Boston Breakers

Lianne Sanderson in action for the Boston Breakers

Fast-forward 20 years and the women’s game is unrecognisable from that in the early 90s, when Lianne was growing up in Lewisham.

Today football is the most prominent team sport played by women around the world, with numerous professional leagues and 176 national teams participating globally.

And it is in one of those professional leagues – America’s NWSL – where Lianne competes for east-coast outfit Boston Breakers.

But growing up in London in the 90s - and despite the challenges it posed - was there ever any other career path considered by the woman now recognisable by her striking blonde mohican and luminous yellow boots? 

No chance - and she says it was her upbringing that gave her the confidence she needed to succeed.

“Never,” she said adamantly. “I come from a family of football people. They all love the game, my dad used to play for Crystal Palace – he also played for Southend. 

"My brother loves it as well. And my mum watches more football than I do. I feel like it’s in my blood and I’ve been going to games since I was a baby." 

And what of her unshakable self-belief?

“I think there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. I’m always conscious of arrogance and I don’t ever want to come across as an arrogant person, because I’m not. 

Lianne Sanderson pictured playing for Arsenal in 2005

Pictured here in 2005, Lianne Sanderson started her career at Arsenal Ladies

“I’ve just come from a family where I’ve been embraced to be myself from a young age, make mistakes, learn from them – and I’ve been fully supported in whatever I want to do. And that really makes a difference.”

Away from the pitch, she is also a conscientious promoter of the women’s game and a role model to thousands of young girls who harbour similar aspirations to those she had as child.

Passionate about all things football, she co-founded the JoLi Academy, a training centre for young female footballers in India.

And it is this side of her job that she says gives her the most pride.

“I just knew nothing was going to stop me from accomplishing my dream. And my dream was always to be a footballer.”

Lianne Sanderson 

“The best thing about being a footballer is being able to be a role model for all the kids," she continued.

“The amount of people that reach out to me on social media is so overwhelming and the letters I get written by parents saying how much I’ve helped their child - it’s the greatest feeling in the world.

“I've always thought even though we don’t get paid as much as people think we should, I feel like a millionaire because the lifestyle I get to lead – and for people to be able to use me as a role model, you can’t put a price on that.

“It’s never really about the money and I just want to help people as much as I can in any way, shape or form.”

Lianne is currently with the England team as they prepare for their 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup qualifier against Wales on Thursday - needing a point to qualify for next summer's finals in Canada.

The game is at Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday 21 August at 7.05pm. 

Fans can buy their tickets via the stadium ticket office hotline only, on 0845 345 1400, and should request the away end in blocks 202 and 203.

Tickets cost £5 for adults and £2 for concessions. 
It will also be broadcast live on BBC3 with coverage starting at 7pm.

By Jamie Reid Senior Writer