Mon, 15 Oct 2018
PLAYING for your country is a dream many young sports performers hope to achieve, and 15-year-old Mia Smith is no different.
Currently the goalkeeper for Reading Women’s under-16 Regional Talent Club, Mia is hoping to cement her place as the number one at the club, as well as being selected for England national camps.
She realised her interest in football at a young age when attending AFC Newbury matches – a team her older brother Kane used to play for.
The Kennet School pupil joined Thatcham Town girls when she was eight years old and then featured in goal for Francis Bailey, her former primary school.
“From that day onwards, I found I enjoyed being a goalkeeper,” she said.
“I started following goalkeeper David de Gea at Manchester United, a team that both my dad and brother support.”
She attended football schools during holidays, hosted by Republic of Ireland and Reading goalkeeper Grace Moloney.
“Grace became a huge inspiration to me and still is a role model for me who led me to aspire to become a professional footballer,” Mia said.
The young shot-stopper claimed that academic studies haven’t stopped her from chasing her dream and support from her family have played a huge part.
“My parents have been incredibly supportive,” Smith said.
“They have taken me to both training and matches as well as spending time on the sidelines encouraging me.
“Both my dad and brother have devoted so much time coaching me and without them I would never have come close to dreaming about playing for Reading or England,” she added.
Smith has already tasted success in her early career as she won the Berks & Bucks Trophy while playing for Tilehurst Panthers.
She has also enjoyed a tour in Dallas, US, while playing for Swindon FC Girls Academy, represented Berkshire Schools and managed to beat 12 other goalkeepers fighting for a contract with the under-16 squad.
Smith, like many others, was glued to the television during the 2015 Women’s FIFA World Cup in Canada, a tournament in which England Lionesses finished third.
And although the publicity has increased since the tournament, the Reading keeper believes that there can be more done.
She said: “I feel it still has a long way to go to gain the same high profile as men’s football – that includes grass-roots facilities and general broadcast coverage on TV, social media and in newspapers.
“So much more could be done to encourage girls to take up football in schools and develop their skills and passion, to then be motivated to want to play for a local grass-roots team and beyond.”