Inspiring more than girls

Back in January, Lily came home from school upset and declared that she no longer wanted to go to football training on Saturdays because some kids in the playground had told her that football was 'just for boys'.

But after sticking with it and joining a local SSE Wildcats Centre, her determination to keep going paid off and she won a competition to be a mascot for the Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley.

It was one of those incredible days and one that she says she'll remember forever. Let's face it, walking out with the Man City and England Captain in front of 43,000 fans at the home of British football is going to take some beating!

The Guardian published this photo essay about the thousands of girls hopefully inspired by the match and for me, I've found myself overwhelmed by the event and the excitement surrounding women's football in the run up to the World cup in France this Summer.

Obviously, it was a big day for us personally. As a Mum I often find myself inspired by my kids. I am a super fan when it comes to Lily and Ollie in all aspects of their life - I support them both Home and Away, cheer them on, shout the loudest and feel the pain when they lose. Seeing Lily so upset at the beginning of the year was hard and I didn't want to her to give up. I had to keep encouraging her, reminding her and proving to her that girls can enjoy and be great at sport too. I was proud that she kept going, and winning this opportunity to be a mascot felt like a reward for her grit and determination.

I cried. A lot. When she walked out onto that pitch.

I see her as my 'big girl' but she's only 6. And yet, she walked proudly with a big smile on her face. I know that before she was nervous but she got over it and enjoyed every second of her big moment.

And it was bigger than just my Lily.

In our group, I loved seeing Lily's cousins and friends in our group cheering on Man City and enjoying the atmosphere. They might not have been that interested in football before but the exhilaration was catching and everyone joined in.

I loved seeing other Wildcat Centres join in with the pre-match build up. It was a great motivation for them to be there and watch the game, knowing that they were part of it too. That one day, it could be them, playing at that Stadium.

There were girls everywhere and they were getting involved. They were a part of it.

The players, on both teams, were encouraging, outspoken activists for women's football. Before and after the match they spoke about how they had been inspired as children and wanted to pass it on, to inspire the next generation of girls.

But looking around, this wasn't just a female-friendly event. There wasn't a segregation of men and women. Boys and girls.

Ollie and his cousin didn't care whether they were cheering on a boys team or a girls team. They were there to watch the football.

The boys at Lily's school watched the game when they wouldn't normally have thought about it. They didn't care that the attendance was smaller than the men's FA Cup Final, they were jealous of Lily being in the changing rooms and tunnel of Wembley Stadium. It was about the football.

My husband, father in law and brother in law enjoyed the game like they would enjoy any other. They didn't hold back because they were watching women play. In the end, it was about the football.

Before the 4th May I would have assumed that girls football was for girls. I would have been wrong.

I'd have assumed that only girls could be inspired by the match. I would have been wrong.

You couldn't help but feel inspired after that game.

I feel that there was plenty to take away from the game. The drive and dedication of the players, the skill, the enthusiasm of the fans.

And the biggest thing that I have taken away from that day? The hope that in time there won't be anything unusual or different about girls playing football. Special initiatives won't be needed. Mums like me won't need to worry about their daughters being discouraged merely because of their gender.

I don't know about you, but I think that's pretty inspirational.
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