Bedford all-girls football team wins all-boys league - for the first time in its 75 year history

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An all-girls football team won an all-boys league in the first ever season - for first time in the competition's 75 year history.

Phoenix Football Centre, based in Bedford, created a female team in 2023, after recognising a number of girls in the area with talent and a love of football.

Coaches Carl Perri, Kieran Alexander and Michael Taylor initially struggled to get the team off the ground, with difficulties finding a sponsor and reaching the required numbers.

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But just three weeks before the season began, the coaches found their final player, and entered the team into the Chiltern Youth Football League, in the under 13s division 3.

The team of Phoenix Football Club. Picture: Phoenix Football Club / SWNSThe team of Phoenix Football Club. Picture: Phoenix Football Club / SWNS
The team of Phoenix Football Club. Picture: Phoenix Football Club / SWNS

The girls' team faced nine teams, winning 18 of their 24 games, and beating the Kempston Rovers 5-1 in their final match of the season - taking home the trophy. It was the first time in 75 years an all-girls team had won the league.

They then faced off against Luton Panthers in the Trophy Cup final yesterday (Sunday ) - but narrowly lost 2-1, falling at the last hurdle in their quest for an historic double.

The girls managed to drag it back to 1-1 after going 1-0 but the opposition proved too strong and grabbed a winner.

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Coach Carl Perri said that the girls are "a credit to everyone" for their incredible achievements this year.

He said: "At the end of last season, we knew that we had a lot of really strong girls in the area that were exceptional at football. We thought that we could do something special with them, so we started running training sessions with the girls and we pulled together a squad.

"We struggled to get the numbers of girls to complete the full squad - and three weeks before the season, we didn’t even have a full squad. We didn’t have a pitch, and we struggled for a sponsor.

"In the end, we managed to get the girls in, and we kept building throughout the season. We managed to find a local sponsor to help us with our kit – because in our first game, we didn’t have a kit. We still, to this day, haven’t got a proper training facility, so we’re training on a rugby pitch."

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The girls and their coaches have faced backlash from the decision - with some people questioning whether the girls are capable of competing, and some rival teams refusing to shake their hands after games.

But the Phoenix girls have worked hard, and have seen a massive improvement in their skills and confidence as the season went on.

"At the beginning, we had a lot of doubters. People asked if we wanted to play down an age group - they also asked if we could even be competitive," said Carl.

"A few people have been quite misogynistic. We’ve been told we shouldn’t be playing in the boys’ league. A few boys have refused to shake the girls’ hands after the game. Despite that minority of people, the support for the girls have been fantastic.

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"After most games, the players and the coaches come up and congratulate us because the girls are so talented. Throughout the season, they have been dedicated to training and they’re progressing and progressing.

"The play that they’re producing now is not just good football, but they’re able to play to tactics.

"Boys tend to play very direct football, and these girls tried to play fluid passing, but the girls had to adapt and play more directly at times to keep up with the boys – and they’ve done it fantastically."

The parents and coaches of the girls are thrilled with their achievement - and with the friendships made within the team.

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"They’ve made some really strong friendships and really stuck together," said Carl.

"They play proper football and get stuck in, but then they get off the pitch and they’re laughing and joking. They’re really dedicated to training – they come along, they train hard, and then they have a joke afterwards.

"At the beginning, we had doubters. People were questioning why we were doing this and told us we were going to get beaten every week. They said it wouldn’t be fair on the girls. We didn’t know we’d win the league – but we knew they’d be competitive and wouldn’t roll over.

"I don’t think they’ve realised just quite what they’ve achieved. It’s really fantastic - they're a credit to everyone."

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