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International Deaf Futsal youngster Lisa Nepean is reflecting on two weeks of Work Experience at the Essex County Football Association Headquarters in Chelmsford, which have fuelled her ambitions to progress in the female game both on and off the pitch.
20-year-old Tottenham Hotspur fan Lisa, whose favourite Spurs player is striker Robbie Keane, is a forward herself for Hannakins Farm in Billericay and her potential coaching career received a boost when she accompanied some of the ECFA's Football Development Officers on their travels around the County during her fortnight's stay. "During my first week, I went to a meeting about girls' football development with Emma Wake which was about trying to get more girls involved, thinking about what we should do in the future for female football," she recalls.
"I have really enjoyed the experience. I've also been designing Futsal posters and took part in the organisation of a tournament in Basildon, attending a school to help with some coaching. One morning I went to Barnes Farm School with Lana Bond but it was raining and windy so we had to run the coaching sessions indoors!"
Lisa has been involved with the England Deaf Futsal Team for some time and their run to the Final of the Three Lions' European Championship last year included a thrilling win over Denmark in the semi-finals and a 9-1 mauling of Ireland in the group stages. A 10-1 victory over Switzerland was also enjoyed and Lisa was the star of the show in that fixture, netting three goals as England became the first side in the tournament to notch double figures in a single match.
She appeared alongside Carly Waters of Rayleigh Raiders as they finished runners-up, narrowly losing 2-0 to Russia in Moscow. Futsal is an indoor version of football played between two teams of five players, one of whom is the goalkeeper, competed for with a slightly smaller but heavier ball to increase skill levels in the game.
The former Chelmsford City Girls and Ladies player has had an ideal player to boost her enthusiasm, too, claiming: "The most inspirational player is Kelly Smith of Arsenal and England. She never gave up in her football ambitions, whether in the USA or England. She is an amazing player to watch on television or going to see ladies football because she's got ability. I look up to her because I've learned skills from her, like passing and using both feet. She is a good role model."
Rewind eleven years and Lisa was just taking her first steps into the Beautiful Game, with a little parental guidance: "I started to play when I was nine. My Mum and Dad put me into training to see if I liked it. When the session was finished, they asked me if I enjoyed it and I said I wanted to go back for more!" Now an established international footballer, she hasn't looked back and wears the Three Lions with pride, continuing: "In my early teens, my dream goals were to play for England Ladies and also the Great British Deaf team because I want to play for my country and make my town proud.
"I achieved a place in the Futsal squad in 2007 and was over the moon when I received the letter from the Football Association to say I was in the final twelve. I had to work hard through the year and trained with England for four months from June 2007 until October at the Lilleshall National Sports Centre."
Not content with stopping there, Lisa is now focussed fully on some important forthcoming dates in her calendar: "I'm now part of a 30-player GB squad for a tournament in Taiwan in 2009 so I will be training towards reaching the final limit of twenty players who will be travelling. I know I have to fight for my place and show the manager I am good enough.
"My future plans are to coach young children to play football because I want them to be more active and enjoy themselves with outdoor activity rather than sitting watching television and playing computers and it can also help their ambitions in the future too. Football is for everyone to be involved with!"
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