“I’m Not Afraid to Play!”

A group of footballers in red and white kits stand in line on a stage. Among the predominantly male group, there are two blonde girls looking at the camera with their thumbs up.

Kimberley and Rachel, aged 16, are the only two girls on their football squad of ten. They represent a new generation of girls with intellectual disabilities determined to spread their passion for football far and wide!

You might think that it would be intimidating to travel to a tournament in a foreign country with only one other girl on your team, but Kimberley and Rachel take it all in their stride. Both aged 16 and from Douai in France, their experience at the Gothia Special Olympics Trophy in Gothenburg, Sweden has only strengthened their belief in bright future of women’s football.

Fresh from France, a nation enjoying the afterglow of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the girls say that some of the boys may be physically stronger but girls are fearless on the pitch. “It’s the same for boys and for girls,” says Rachel. “I am not afraid!”. Kimberley adds, “Before football was only for men but now there are more and more women and girls.”

Two blonde girls in Special Olympics t-shirts stand side by side smiling at the camera standing on sand with a beach volleyball net in the background.
Rachel Danaune and Kimberley Raton of Special Olympics France enjoy an evening off during the Gothia Special Olympics Trophy in Gothenburg from 14 to 18 July 2019.

Kimberley and Rachel have been training with their team for a number of years and are more than comfortable with their teammates and their place on the pitch. On their journey to Gothenburg, the team as a whole has had strong support from the Special Olympics France coaching team and two mentors from SKF in France, a leading global supplier of technology platforms, services and systems.

The girls are soaking up every moment of their international experience, and they are watching and learning to take everything they’ve learnt back to France. “It’s good to be playing football here and I’m happy to travel outside France for this tournament,” says Kimberley. “We’re watching to see which teams play better and who has different techniques to us.”

There is a 70/30 ratio of boys to girls in the Gothia Cup 2019 but if Kimberley and Rachel are anything to go by, that will steadily change every year to come!