Women’s football is a world away from where it was when Alex Scott was eight years old.
The only way the Lionesses legend could play the game she loved was with the boys from her neighbourhood in Poplar, east London.
Her ability quickly made her stand out and she was spotted by a referee, a friend of then-Arsenal Ladies boss Vic Akers, at a small-sided tournament and advised to try out for the Gunners.
Twenty-five years and countless honours later, Scott recently retired as the second most-capped England player of all-time, behind only her former Lionesses team-mate Fara Williams.
But, with organisers now able to register events for Girls’ Football Week in April, Scott believes she was simply fortunate to have been noticed by that referee and is delighted that female players today have more opportunities than ever to join all-girl teams.
She said: “I started out by playing with the boys from my area, as most girls my age probably did.
“I was just very lucky that I got spotted. I didn’t even know there was an Arsenal Ladies team.
“It just shows how far we’ve come that there are now so many opportunities for girls to get involved and play alongside other girls – and Girls’ Football Week does exactly that.
“The way the game is now, how big it is, how professional it’s getting; I wish it was like that when I was younger.
“But I still enjoyed the process that I went through and the fact I played a small part in helping football get to where it is now.”
Girls’ Football Week begins on Monday 23 April and is focused on encouraging coaches, parents, teachers and volunteers to put on football sessions for girls.
And Scott, who captained Arsenal to SSE Women’s FA Cup glory at Wembley Stadium in 2016, has encouraged every young player to get involved, whatever their ability level.
She added: “There are so many girls’ clubs out there now that you can just contact your local club and find out if they’re holding trials or even if you can just go along and see what it’s like.
“The great thing about football is that you can go along to your local club, have a kickabout, gain confidence and, most importantly, it’s a great way to make new friends.
“I’ve made some lifelong friends through football and that is one of the best things the game has given me.
“But girls now realise that they can make a career out of football if they want to whereas that was just a dream for me when I started.
“So I’d say that if you like football, or are interested in taking it up, why not start during Girls’ Football Week?”