Claire Rafferty, 23, is an England international football player with Chelsea Ladies. This year she is part of Team GB in the 2012 London Olympic Games. Hailing from Bromley, south-east London, Claire began her football career with Millwall Lionesses aged 14. She went on to represent England for the Under 17, Under 19 and Under 23 teams, and was part of the 2011 World Cup Finals.
Having suffered an injury last year, Rafferty has worked hard to come back at her best. She speaks to The London Word about the Olympics, her motivation and how female football is working on getting recognition through the help of the FA Women’s Super League this summer…
How does it feel to be a part of Team GB for the Olympics?
‘It is such an honour and a privilege to be selected for the first ever GB Women’s football squad in Olympic history, especially as we are the home nation and have the home crowd behind us the whole way.’
How did it feel when you heard you got picked?
‘I got the phone call from Hope Powell on a Monday morning saying that I was in. I was surprised as I wasn’t expected to be picked as I have recently been out for 10 months with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Nonetheless I was extremely excited and am so happy to be selected as I have put in a lot of hard work to be here.’
What kind of a rush do you get when you are playing a game?
‘International games attract much bigger crowds than our domestic games and so when playing England there is always that little bit of added pressure that the crowds bring. However, regardless of the size of the crowd I always feel an overwhelming sense of pride when representing my country. There is a certain buzz you get when you play especially if things are going well and we are winning. I would just describe it as being really fun and natural.’
Is there anyone you look up to in terms of motivation?
‘I look up to a few of the Senior England Women’s players for advice as some players like Rachel Yankey, Casey Stoney and Rachel Unitt have over 100 caps for their country and thus have a lot of experience and lessons to pass down. However I believe you have to be quite self motivated to give yourself the best possible chance at being successful in what you want to do.’
There is such a different attitude to men’s and women’s football – does this make you even more determined to succeed?
‘Yes there is an old fashioned attitude towards Women’s football which can be somewhat frustrating, However with the new FA Women’s Super League summer league set up, televised games on ESPN and increased investment in the game it has and is becoming more accessible and this will hopefully change stubborn opinions.’
Do you think the 2012 Olympics will help to publicise women’s football?
‘I feel that the 2012 Olympics is a fantastic opportunity for women’s football to show off. We had the opening game against New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium, which was actually the first event of the whole Olympics, even before the opening ceremony. I believe that the key to success is a winning international team which will hopefully open more doors for our domestic game.’
Do you have any advice to any young people who look to play football on a professional level?
‘In football and in life you will experience many obstacles but its how you deal with them that makes you who you are. Determination, hard work and a strong mental attitude will always prevail.’
Where is your favourite part of London?
‘My favourite area in London is Tower Bridge. My boyfriend lives there and I love spending time by the river. I love everything – the pubs and bars and the general atmosphere around that part of London.’
Image courtesy of the Team GB site