Asif Burhan speaks to Liverpool Ladies goalkeeper Emily Ramsey
Asif Burhan, who began blogging for Kick It Out during the 2012 UEFA European Championships, provides readers with a look at the social and cultural impact of football nationally and globally.
Asif has travelled to over 75 cities around the world watching hundreds of games. His trips have been entirely self-funded and unsupported, a personal odyssey to experience as many different footballing cultures as possible.
For his latest feature, Asif spoke to Just A Ball Game? Patron and Liverpool goalkeeper Emily Ramsey.
At the age of six, Emily Ramsey made a decision that would shape the rest of her life. One of two girls who joined Dean’s Tigers, an under-8 boys’ team in Salford, she offered to go in goal.
“They didn’t have a goalkeeper and I volunteered as I wasn’t going to be signed on as an outfielder because the boys were a year older than me.”
The next season, Ramsey was captaining those same older boys and such was her impact that she was soon signed up by the Manchester United Academy.
At the age of 13, Emily was first invited to St George’s Park, then itself only a year old, as part of a regional talent camp for the North of England. From there she was selected to join the England under-15 squad but initially things didn’t work out as planned.
She explained: “After the camp I didn’t get called up for about another year and a half as my fitness wasn’t good enough but I worked on it and eventually got back into the system properly at under-16s.”
For Ramsey to come through that initial setback demonstrates her strength of character, a fundamental trait for anyone seeking to make it in the game.
“Obviously there are sacrifices that come with playing football because it takes up the majority of my time,” she said. “This means sometimes I’m too tried or busy to go out with my friends but I still see them so socially I haven’t had to make too many sacrifices. It just takes a lot of hard work and dedication which I’m happy to give as I love playing the game.”
“My family have had to make sacrifices for me and constantly drive me around and buy me boots and gloves etc. Therefore without my mum and dad specifically I wouldn’t be where I am now because they give up so much money and time in order to support me, take me to training and so on.”
Now, shortly after sitting her GCSEs, Emily has joined FA WSL side Liverpool Ladies where she will train regularly with England goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain.
“It was an easy decision for me because once I visited the club, saw the facilities and spoke to some of the staff it was clear that the women were treated very well. At Liverpool, it is clear that they want to bring home-grown players through the ranks and push their youth players on into first team players at club and international level.”
At Liverpool, she will also continue her role as a patron for the LGBT charity JustABallGame? who campaign against homophobic, biphophic and transphobic discrimination at all levels of the game.
“I got involved through my mum as she was doing some work where she’d been in contact with them. I was very happy to become a patron as I think what they’re working for is needed (in the game) and if I can help put across their message then I’m happy to do it.”
JustABallGame? founder, Lindsay England is understandably proud of the player she first came across as a 14-year-old before inviting her to an England Fans match to celebrate the Lionesses’ playing Germany at Wembley in 2014.
She said: “We supported Em as a coach, ref and England player and at 16 we invited her to become our youngest patron to help reach out as a straight ally to her peers and spread our work and campaign.”
“We continue to follow and support Em at matches for England and provide sponsorship of her goalkeeper gloves and feel she shows the hard graft, determination and right work-ethic and ability required to play elite football.”
Former England and Liverpool Ladies goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis is acting as a mentor for Ramsey and sees a lot of potential but warns there’s much work still to do.
“She’s a really good stature for a goalkeeper and has made a fantastic move to Liverpool Ladies where she can train full-time in a very professional setup there,” she said. “I think she’s now going in at the deep end, she’s probably at the bottom of the pile but that’s what she needed. She needs to see where she can improve to move up the pecking order.
“Technically, you can see she’s had some coaching but regular coaching will help reinforce those good habits. To be a top-class goalkeeper, it’s about decision-making in game situations and it’s about handling the pressure, it’s a much more holistic set of skills, so I’m looking forward to being part of her journey.”
Representing her country while still at school, Ramsey played for England in the qualifiers for the under-17 European Championship which included a round-robin group stage in Lithuania.
“I’ve had some great opportunities so far playing for England and have been able to travel to some really interesting places. I learned a lot being out in Lithuania for the Euro qualifiers. I got three full caps but had to deal with some challenges which helped me in the long run with overcoming mistakes and being mentally resilient.”
Ten years on from first volunteering to go in goal for Dean’s Tigers, Ramsey went to the Czech Republic as part of the England squad that qualified for the finals by defeating eventual champions Germany.
“Being in the Czech Republic for the finals in May just before my GCSEs was difficult in some ways as I had to deal with not starting games and also not qualifying out of the group, but to even have been part of the team that qualified in such a tough group and to go to a European finals was incredible and an experience I’ll never forget.”
Ten years from now she hopes to be playing regularly in the first team for Liverpool in the FA WSL and to have broken into the England senior team. At the age of 26, she would still be five years younger than the average age of the goalkeepers England are taking to the European Championships this summer.
The seeds being sown now by Mark Sampson’s senior squad may or may not bring home silverware this summer but for Ramsey’s generation, the benefits could be incalculable – the chance of a sustainable career which was inconceivable to the current squad when they were Emily’s age.
“Growing up I just enjoyed playing football and knew I wanted to be a footballer when I was older. I never thought about how it might not be an option as women’s football was not very well-known when I was younger. Now though, the women’s game has come a long way and I definitely believe if I keep working hard and make the right decisions for my career then I can make it as a professional.”