Young Hibs player hopes to spur on next generation at Skye girls’ football day

Youth football coach Roddy MacLeod is pictured with Katherine Dibble and Sarah Yoxon, as they prepare for a girls’ football tournament later in the month.

A young Hibernian player from Skye has welcomed the news that two girls-only football days will be held on the island across the summer, with a view to a club potentially being established.

Katherine Dibble (18) currently plays in Edinburgh as part of the Hibernian Women’s Football Academy and will lend her skills and experience to the next generation of players during the two events which will be held on Saturday (24th July) and in August.

The days are being organised by the Skye and Lochalsh Junior Football Association.

Speaking to the Free Press, Highlife Highland Youth Development Officer Roddy MacLeod, who has been involved in the development of the events, said: “This is something I wanted to get going a couple of years ago when Portree High School took boys and a girls’ teams out to Holland for a trip. 

“We had a superb fifth and sixth-year age group then, but only three of the fifteen girls played in the under-18s league that year. The plans to take the idea forward (for a girls team) didn’t materialise.”

Roddy told the Free Press that his ambitions have recently been reignited through his role as the coach of the Broadford under-15s football team.

“We only have three girls currently playing for us in the league, so one of the parents approached me to ask about the idea.

“With sport starting to slowly emerge from Covid and with many female players taking part across the soccer sevens and at under-13 level, there seems like no better time than now.”

Recalling her own experiences as one of the few girls playing, Katherine Dibble told the Free Press: ” When I started playing football at Broadford Youth Club I was the only girl, which seemed to be the case until my last couple years of high school when I think there were two other girls who had joined their local teams as well. 

“Nowadays, there are more opportunities to go away and join women’s teams, but it usually involves travelling which can be difficult for people to do and they have to rely on other people to help them.

“When I turned 16 I joined a women’s team in Inverness as it was the closest team for me. Now I’m playing football in Edinburgh through Hibernian women’s football academy.”

Roddy MacLeod watches on as Katherine and Sarah get in some practice for a girls’ tournament later in the month.

Skye shinty star and sports all-rounder Sarah Yoxon will be part of a strong coaching team at the events.

“Women’s football in Scotland has certainly grown since I was Katherine’s age. The only women’s football I ever watched on telly was the women’s FA Cup, once a year, and the World Cup every four years,” she told the Free Press.

“However, I do feel Skye is behind the times. When I was in school, we actually had a cracking girls’ senior team that was entered in a girls league against other schools in Scotland, and we went to compete in competitions from time to time as well. This is something I would like to see again in the schools in Skye and Lochalsh.

“There are currently girls on the island who are very good at football. Some like to play for fun and there are some who could go on to bigger and better things if they wanted to. Roddy’s idea of girls’ sessions is such a fantastic idea.

She added: “I would love for these football sessions to be accommodating for all types of players. Sessions that are fun and enjoyable, as well as improving and developing. I look forward to being involved and seeing where it takes women’s football on Skye.”

Roddy said: “This open day, and another one planned for August, is being set up with a view to starting a club from which we would like to have various junior teams and even an adult team, in time, to play others around the area.”

Katherine added:” I think that a girls-only football day is a great idea and a great way to get young girls involved in the sport. 

“Volunteering to help at local youth football tournaments and doing a little coaching has also helped me to stay involved with the youth football here and I would love to see more girls taking part.”

The first of the girls’ football days will be held on Saturday 24th July on Broadford playing field between 10.30 am and 1 pm. The event will include seven-a-side games and skills practise and are open to anyone aged 11 to 18.

Article by Adam Gordon and image by Willie Urquhart.