With the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicking off on Friday June 7, Steph Houghton is in the final stages of preparing her team.
But having captained the England team an amazing 100 times before, there’s certainly no better person for the job.
Also captain of Manchester City Women’s Football Club (owned by Abu Dhabi), the sporting star was awarded an MBE for her services to football in 2016.
The respected player, from Durham in the North East of England, is a brilliant role model for young girls and she has quite rightly become one of the most recognisable and influential figures in women’s sport.
We catch up with the 31-year-old former Sunderland player to ask her about her hopes for the World Cup, the growth of the game, and why she is so taken with Abu Dhabi.
How is your year going with Manchester City?
We’ve had a great season winning both the Continental Cup and Women’s FA Cup, they were amazing days for everyone at the club. It was a shame to miss out on the League title, but that’s motivation for next season and we’re looking forward to getting back into the Champions League after qualifying for the fourth consecutive year.
What is it like to be connected to football teams around the globe with the City Football Group?
It’s great to be able to share and benefit from the group’s knowledge and resources. It’s also offered some the opportunity to play in Melbourne as we have a women’s team there.
Do you like coming out to Abu Dhabi?
I’ve been to visit with Manchester City twice now and we always enjoy it. It’s an amazing city and the hospitality of the people is second to none. When we’ve visited it’s been for pre-season tours, so it’s involved a lot of football, but on one trip we were lucky enough to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and it was an unforgettable experience.
How are you preparing for the Women’s World Cup?
We’ve had a series of training camps and we will be playing a few more friendlies in England before heading to France. We’ve got a great squad and everyone is very close, it’s important to support each other as it’s going to be a tough competition.
How far are you hoping to go in the competition?
Ideally, we’d like to go all the way, you don’t go to a World Cup not hoping to win, but we also know it’s not going to be easy. There are so many top-quality teams competing, but it’s important we remain focused on ourselves and do our best for the whole team and everyone at home.
Are you proud to have captained the England team so many times?
I’m incredibly proud and grateful to have had the opportunity to lead my country. There’s no greater feeling than pulling on the England shirt and I am so thankful to everyone who has supported me and hope I can do them proud this summer.
Do you think women’s football is going to keep growing in popularity?
Absolutely, women’s football has gone from strength to strength over the last decade and it’s been incredible to see the game grow.
I think the future is bright, we’ve got a fantastic pathway of young talent coming through, attendances are growing, TV audiences are increasing and with the new Barclays sponsorship, investment is at an all-time high.
Hopefully the game continues on this upward trend.
Why does it deserve more recognition?
Women’s football is a quality sport. Just like with the men’s game, scoring goals, last-minute penalty shootouts and trophy lifts are unforgettable moments for everyone – players and fans alike.
Last year, Manchester City launched the Same City, Same Passion campaign to highlight that the same excitement and passion that’s in men’s football can also be seen in the women’s game.
What is your relationship with the men’s Manchester City team like?
We’re all very supportive of each other. This year we were part of the trophy parade celebrations when they won the Premier League and it was great to share our success on the pitch together with the fans.
You can catch the action from the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup from June 7 to July 7.