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England Pro Footballer Kelly Smith

Women's Sport Report caught up with Kelly to ask her about life as a pro footballer. A member of England's national team since the age of 16, she is the only woman from that nation to play professionally in the United States.
The No 1 Sport for Women on a Global Basis is Football, but still the ladies have to work full-time to be able to play the game they love. As Football is a team sport, individual sponsorship is hard to come by. A native of Watford, England, Smith owns 44 caps for international play and has scored 11 goals. She was a starter for England’s team in the 1999 World Cup qualifying matches. She helped England qualify for the 2001 European Championships, which was the country’s first appearance in a major championship in five years and was a key player as England hosted the 2005 Euros.
1, At what age did you first become interested in playing football?
I was interested from a very early age and started playing when I was about 6 years old. I then started training on a regular basis and my parents were really supportive.

photo FA

She was one of the stars of the WUSA, playing for three years with the Philadelphia Charge/photo FA
2, Do you think you made the right decision to move back to the UK after spending years in the US?
Even though I miss many of my friends in the US, I do believe I made the right decision, I had quite a hard time over there before I moved back, there were problems with my green card, I was injured and now that I’m back in the UK and can see what I missed over here I am happy to be back.

Smith gained notoriety in the United States as one of the nation’s top collegiate players at Seton Hall University. With 24 goals and 56 points in 17 matches in 1998, and 27 goals and 52 points in 19 matches in 1999, Smith topped the NCAA in scoring. She was named the Big East Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year all three seasons at Seton Hall, and was among the top vote-getters for the 1999 Missouri Athletic Club Player of the Year and the Hermann Trophy, awards both given to the nation’s top collegiate player. Smith, who is the NCAA’s all-time leader in career points per game and goals per game, received the University’s highest honor when her uniform number (6) was retired.
Smith returned to England in the Fall of 2004 and rejoined the famed Arsenal team, which she starred for before going to the U.S. Although seeing limited action because of a foot injury, Smith helped the Gunners to the 2005 Premier League title with a stunning 30-yard goal versus Charlton after entering the match as a substitute.

photo FA

How are professional female footballers able to support themselves and their careers?

All of the Arsenal football girls are working full time, since football is a team sport it is very difficult to get individual sponsorship – I’m lucky enough to be working for Arsenal and have a couple of small sponsorship deals, but in general it’s very difficult to hold down a full time job and play professional football.

The England Ladies Team Euro 2005 photo FA

Named to the WUSA's Global 11 All-Star Team in 2001, she was one of the early favorites to earn the league's MVP award in 2002 before a knee injury ended her stellar season. The team captain in 2003, she made a recovery from the injury and regained her status as one of the most dangerous players and explosive scorers in the league.

Do you study the men’s form to help learn new and different skills?
I used to study them all the time, watch football on TV and matches to learn certain skills and view them from a different angle – but I don’t watch that much anymore.

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