Next to be featured in our ‘Women in Sport’ article is Northern Ireland International, Avilla Bergin.
Avilla was born in Dublin and moved to her hometown of Derry at the age of 4 years. The former Tottenham FC player became involved in sport at a young age, first participating in football at school – playing in the boy’s school team before joining Culmore Girls FC.
Bergin cites family as being one of the great motivations and influences on her decision to initially take up football. ‘My dad’s passion for football is definitely behind my own, and one of the reasons I began playing football.’
Following on from Culmore Girls FC, Avilla’s passion and talent for football developed and she joined Institute FC where she was soon scouted to represent N. Ireland at underage levels. Avilla enjoys the release that you can get from sport.
“No matter what kind of day you’ve had, football for me will always be a fantastic distraction and a mood changer!”
The 27 year old, has vast experience in many levels of football, not only in Ireland but in America – playing College football and more recently across the water in England, boasting Tottenham FC and Charlton FC as former Clubs.
And continues to say that she has ‘witnessed first-hand the huge benefits of being involved in sport – staying fit and healthy, making friends for life and being given the opportunity to travel around the world.’
Bergin, has been with current club, Lewes FC since 2017 and still remains an integral part of the N. Ireland Women’s squad and holds her international caps as her ‘greatest achievement’ and something that she is immensely proud of. ‘I have played in places such as Azerbaijan for World Cup Qualifiers. Scoring a brace against Bulgaria is probably my favourite game for N. Ireland, beating Portugal and getting the winning assist is another favourite also!’
‘As well as International qualifiers I love participating in league football. The twists and turns I witnessed playing for both Tottenham and Charlton in the Premier League were really exciting.’
Bergin cites Kelly Smith and Marta as early role models for young aspiring female footballers like herself. ‘Growing up Kelly Smith and Marta were role models for young girls like me, with huge amounts of success. As a Liverpool fan, players (in the male game) such as Steven Gerrard were also favourite’s – mainly due to Gerrard’s never say die attitude and desire to always give his all.’
Avilla’s experience playing at the highest level of English football has shaped her point of view on Women in sport. ‘I have a huge respect and admiration for all Women that have played at this intensity and level. Training almost every day, with minimal funding and the dedication and sacrifices they make, on a daily in order to play the game, purely because they love it – is refreshing and admirable.’
We asked Avilla if she feels that women’s sport gets enough coverage in the media she says ‘I think it’s something that is certainly improving. The success of England Women in recent World Cup and Euro Competitions has definitely had a big influence on media coverage on Women’s football here in England. However, there is undoubtedly room for more coverage but it’s certainly going in the right direction.’
Women’s football has seen a huge spike in participation and also in attendances, notably Chelsea FC which seen record attendance after their move to the 4,850 capacity Kingsmeadow Stadium.
Back in 2017, Avilla signed with Lewes FC. The Club recently made headlines back in 2017 becoming the first Professional or Semi-Professional Club to pay and treat its Women and Men’s teams equally. ‘Playing for the only club where Women and Men get equal pay, I have seen the huge benefits of treating women in football as equals. The increase in crowds at Women’s games here also highlights a change in attitudes.’ says the Derry native.
“Girls can now have career goals of playing Football at both a high level and professionally.”
“This is extremely exciting, and something I could never really afford to give too much thought growing up as the opportunities simply weren’t readily available.”
“I think it’s important that media coverage of Women’s sport continues to increase and I would like to see more funding opportunities made accessible.”
“Opportunities for girls to participate at grassroots level need to be readily available – this is vital, in order to attract girls and women at the base, the core.”
“The more role models young girls can see the more ambitious they will be, this is a major responsibility of not only the affiliated sporting bodies but of ourselves as women participating in sport.”
To keep up to date with the Derry City LFC team, be sure to give them a like on Facebook here.
20×20 – Women In Sport
- a 20% increase in media coverage of women in sport
- a 20% increase in female participation at all levels of sport
- a 20% increase in attendance at women’s games and events
Everyone can help accelerate progress in this country by pledging to do just one small thing to help start this giant shift for female sport. Whether you’re a teacher who can help create greater parity and opportunities for girls, a journalist who can help increase visibility of female athletes and competitions, a parent who can attend a match or a person who can simply encourage a young woman to get involved in sport, we need you to show your stripes because if she can’t see it, she can’t be it.