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Forest Pitch attracting global participation
 Women's Football News 27 Jun 2012
Football and art will be united when four amateur teams play two matches on a specially created pitch in the heart of a Borders forest near Selkirk. 
Edinburgh-based Craig Coulthard's Forest Pitch art experience is one of Scotland's most dramatic and delightful contributions to the Cultural Olympiad, which runs in tandem with the 2012 Olympic Games.
Some 60 players, mostly new Scots who have come to Scotland from all round the world for safety, love, work or study will take part in this special tournament on Saturday, 21 July.
The men's and women's teams will be cheered on by around 1,000 spectators - each fan making their own contribution to this imaginative celebration of the true Olympian spirit and exploration of 21st-century Scottish culture and identity.
Many of them are people who are new to Scotland from other parts of the world - like Shannon Lynn, the Canadian goalkeeper who has been capped five times for Scotland. Others are Scottish by birth. Some have never played before, others are members of leading teams with ambitions to become professionals.
Allison Gibbs is taking a master's degree at Glasgow School of Art - somewhere she had long hoped to study after hearing about its excellence during her undergraduate degree in Melbourne. After her first degree she worked for a year to raise enough money to get to Scotland. A sculptor and film maker, she is carving out a career for herself in the country's arts scene.
After five years in Glasgow - a city she loves - Allison says she can't imagine living anywhere else. Her grandfather William Thompson was raised in Falkirk and emigrated to Australia after visiting the country while serving in the Royal Navy during World War II. Since arriving in Scotland, Allison has built strong relationships with her grandfather's descendants from his first marriage.
"The family links were a prominent reason for coming to Scotland. I remember my grandfather telling me stories about the country, like about walking to school in snow, and I had a very romantic idea of what it was like."
Alison O'Neil admires the Scottish education systems and came over from Seattle to take an MBA at Glasgow University. Enthused by the Olympics, she went for an interview hoping for a little temporary work doing something like selling T-shirts. However, her performance was so impressive that she was put in charge of the bus transportation for all the Olympic football teams (and accompanying media) in Glasgow (co-host city). After the MBA she hopes to remain in Europe and get involved in product/brand management.
Her family is football mad (dad and brother are both referees) and she has been playing since the age of four. She played for the Glasgow University women's team. It's a sport which appeals to her drive for success.
"I'm a pretty competitive person and love that aspect of football. I've always loved building up my skills," she says.
A product designer from Yokohama, Makiko Konishi and her British architect husband Kieran were living in Japan before coming to Edinburgh. They built their own award winning house in Portobello. It includes many Japanese influences; a large Scottish oak trunk stands upright in the hall, echoing the tradition of the big black pillar which was at the heart of many homes. The couple run their own business, Konishi Gaffney Architects and have three children - a son Kaz'ma (5) and daughters Mika (9) and Kiku (7).
Makiko was taking Kaz'ma for football lessons when another parent suggested getting together a women's team. She took some persuading but ended up loving playing on the promenade and the beach. At first she found it difficult to challenge larger, Western women for the ball and nearly gave up. Then she discovered that the Japanese women had won the World Cup. She said: "I thought that if they can get the ball from all those bigger players and they can win, then I should not be put off. So I started to wonder how good I could be if I really practiced."
Makiko is now an avid player - following the Japanese women's team on Youtube and pestering her husband (also a keen player) with questions when they watch British football on TV. Both their daughters love to play: "Perhaps we will see one of them playing for Scotland and the other for Japan."
Shannon Lynn's parents emigrated to Canada 30 years ago for work, but kept close contact with Scotland. Relatives often used to send over football strips and she was raised knowing all about Scottish teams. She was raised in Brampton, Ontario and now works in the Fit Food Bistro in Leith.
Passionate about the game, she has played it since early childhood. Shannon came to Scotland three years ago for the football and now plays for Hibs Ladies and is the second goalkeeper for Scotland - with five caps. One was earned in the match where Scotland's women notched up their first ever victory against Holland.
"In Canada there are lots of sports which are promoted all over the place," says Shannon. "But when you come to Scotland it's different because football is just so important. You look in the shops or on the TV and you see football everywhere.
"It's a really exciting time to be involved in Scottish women's football, with the national team faring so well. We had a huge 8-0 win against Israel which was amazing.
"My parents are over the moon. They have been able to come over and see their daughter play for Scotland's national team - it's something they are really proud of."
The games take place in a magnificent natural arena, cut from a spruce forest on the Buccleuch Estate, with live music and international food all adding to the match day excitement.
Tickets need to be booked in advance from www.forestpitch.org or by calling (01665) 833751. Prices are £5 for adults, £3.50 for concessions and under-5s are free. Family tickets are £15. There is a booking fee of 50p per ticket.
The matches take place at the pitch near Selkirk, in the Scottish Borders. Tickets include park and ride from Selkirk. Ticketing enquiries should be made to tickets@forestpitch.org. For full details about Forest Pitch see www.forestpitch.org/.

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