This article is an excerpt from the Young Lionesses feature from Issue 01 of GAFFER: ‘England’s Finest’. Available from our online shop now.
Having played football for 11 years – Blackburn Rovers for nine of them, and Everton for two – Kaya Pottinger has had a ball at her feet for as long as she can remember. At the start of the year Kaya was called up to the England Under-18s side, and this summer she flew to Brazil to take pat in the finals of the Neyman Jr’s Five tournament. Has Kaya ever thought about quitting? “Never,” she says. “I’ve never wanted to give up on football. I’ll never fall out of love with the game.”
How did you fall into football?
My mum’s friend’s daughter was really good at football and tricks, and she went to training at a private school, so I started to go. There I learnt about ball control, tricks, and getting touches on the wall, and that’s made me the skilful player I am today.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your football career?
I think that it’s a big challenge mentally as well as physically. Sometimes things might not be going your way, but you just have to understand that it’s not the end of the world and that you can’t be too hard on yourself, because one week it could be like that and the next you could be getting called up for the first team.
How would you describe your experience growing up as a female player in the football world?
When playing mixed football there was a lot of hate from the boys, they’d laugh at you and it knocked my confidence. But going into women’s football was so different. I liked it better, and it was more professional. I felt proud of myself and that was a big deal for me when I was younger because it gave me confidence. I was buzzing to go into school to tell everyone in the playground that I was a Blackburn Rovers player at the time.
How do you feel women’s football has developed since you started out?
It’s come so far. There’s a lot more money going into it in terms of facilities: kit, travelling, the coaches, everything. If I remember where we used to train it was just sand astroturf, and now we train where the boys do at the academy. Years ago we never even got to go to the academies. Girls were always put on rubbish pitches. Now is a good time to be a women’s player and the game is only going to get bigger.
What is your best England game memory?
It would have to be my first tournament in Italy. I remember being on the bench for the first two games and getting annoyed, and then they put me on as eleven. I was so proud. Unfortunately I got injured and hurt my knee, but that’s still my best memory, that feeling of going on and thinking, “I’m going to score”.
How would you describe the atmosphere pre-game?
Everyone’s so focussed. We all want the same thing: to win. But there’s such a sense of togetherness, people encouraging each other, we’re like a family. We represent our country so everyone’s always buzzing to play.
Who is the best female player right now?
My favourite is Nikita Parris. I like the style she plays. As an attacking player, I would probably compare myself most to her as well. She’s got the position I would want on the team.