International Women’s Day with Electric Ireland's Game Changers campaign
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Marissa Callaghan - captain of the Northern Ireland women’s football team and ambassador of the Electric Ireland’s Game Changers campaign, in partnership with the Irish Football Association - speaks about how the game has changed in Northern Ireland for women’s sport.
Marissa’s football story began as she was growing up. In West Belfast, there were limited opportunities for Marissa to get involved in football with no girls’ teams in the area.
“The only chance I had to play football was joining in with the boys on the streets. When I was 15 or 16 I joined Newington Girls which has since amalgamated with Cliftonville Football Club. This was my first real taste of playing football with a club. Now I have been playing for 18 years and I have loved every minute”
“When I was 19 I won a scholarship to travel to America and it was during this time I realised I wanted to follow a career in football. I studied a coaching degree part time at Ulster University before heading into the world of work.”
Marissa worked as Active Communities Coach in schools before taking on her current role with the Irish Football Association (IFA) as a women’s football ambassador, promoting the sport as an option for girls and women in clubs and schools.
“Girls and women participating in football in Northern Ireland are Game Changers, they follow their passion and love of the game blazing a trail for others by their example.”
“I encourage girls to get involved in sport and to join a club to have the opportunity to play. Their ambition and hard work can open doors in many aspects of life including the opportunity to play for their country like me.”
Marissa is also an ambassador of Electric Ireland’s Game Changers campaign in partnership with the IFA which launched in May of last year. Electric Ireland is the proud sponsor of women’s football across Northern Ireland and through the Game Changers campaign aims to break down the perceptions that exist around women’s football, celebrate female football talent and most importantly help boost participation rates.
“The women’s game is growing in popularity in Northern Ireland and the support from Electric Ireland will undoubtedly help it to develop even further”
Playing for Northern Ireland for five years has allowed Marissa to meet new people, travel the world and grow not only as a footballer but also as an individual.
“My proudest memory was last January when Northern Ireland Women travelled to Portugal. We played two games and although we lost the first 2-0 we managed to win the second. The final score was 1-0 and I was delighted to have been the goal scorer. Our win highlighted that we have the talent to beat a world class side.
“Another great memory was when I was named as captain in June 2016. We played Georgia at my club’s home ground Solitude and I scored two goals. My team mate also scored the fastest goal in women’s football that night, hitting the back of the net in under 10 seconds. Wining 4-0 that night was a wonderful feeling.”
The future for the Northern Ireland Women’s team and women’s football in Northern Ireland in general is a bright one.
You can learn more about the Game Changers campaign here. Join the conversation using #GameChangers.