Most footballers have hung up their boots long before they turn 50.
That’s not the case for the WA Black Swan Women’s Masters Over 50s team who, after a long 14 months in training, will join the Over 40s team at the World Masters Games in Auckland, New Zealand.
More than 25,000 men and women are expected to take part in 28 sports and 45 disciplines of the major sporting event, which was established in Toronto in 1985 and is now held every four years. This year the competition, which encourages participation in sport for all ages, will run from April 21 to 30.
In the women’s football competition there are divisions for 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 and 60-year age groups at elite (ex-international and representative players) and competitive levels. The WA teams are entered in the competitive levels. Each of these divisions has 20 teams primarily from Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Members of the WA Black Swan Women’s Masters team were selected from a range of clubs across the state. Each team member has a unique background, with some players raised in Australia and others in Europe, South Africa, New Zealand and one from Angola.
The players’ exposure to football has been varied with some being introduced to the game from a young age and others coming into football in their later years when their daughters began playing. The commitment and support for women’s football from the current players is significant, with many coaching and holding committee positions.
The WA Over 40s team will be coached by Martin Cox and the Over 50s team will be coached by Robert Glover.
Glover said coaching his team has been a challenging yet satisfying experience.
“For these ladies to just be capable of playing the game they love and committing to the somewhat rigorous schedule of training and trials is a testament to their love of football,” he said.
“Several of these ladies travelled to the Games in 2013 but many new faces have been added to the squad and it will be a new experience for some.
“We plan to give our best in Auckland where we will be competing against a similar age group, but it is also important to enjoy the experience, have fun, catch up with old friends and make new ones, then come back and get involved in our regular club fixtures.”
The first female WA representative side, West Coast Strikers, played in the 1994 Games in Brisbane and returned with a bronze medal. Since then, WA teams have played in Melbourne in 2002 (where they won a silver medal) and in Italy in 2013.
Mhairi Glover played in both competitions and will participate again this year. Glover said the philosophy of the Masters Games was to promote friendship, understanding and competition between mature athletes, regardless of age, race, gender, religion or sports status.
“Being part of the Over 40s Black Swans State Masters squad and the larger combined squad is an amazing experience,” she said.
“Playing football has given me the opportunity to meet many interesting, varied and fun people, this squad being no exception.”
Glover played an active role in working with Football West to develop two teams for the 2017 Games. The team took part in a Margaret River tournament in late February and several training games to help clubs with their pre-season training.
“While I have played with and against many of the players over the years, it was great to see so many new faces making the final teams,” she said.
“The Over 40s team are from a good spread of clubs. Our goal in Auckland is to have fun and be competitive.
“With many Canadian and American teams, the standard will be tough and while we would love to repeat the silver medal performance in Melbourne in 2002, we want to be remembered as a team that put in 110% effort and played in the spirit of the masters games which is sport for all.”
Members of the Over 50s team include Janette Spencer and Jayne Jeffrey who will both turn 60 in 2017.
Perth United and Kwinana United Soccer Club will also be participating in the World Masters.
Perth United’s players are drawn from several teams in WA’s Premier and Metro leagues. The team, made up of 13 Perth-based players and 5 New Zealand players, will take part in the Over 40s grade at the tournament.
This is the second year the Kwinana United Soccer Club are competing, after participating in the Games in Sydney in 2009. The team includes three brothers from the Moodie family, two brothers from the Prosser family and nine people who played in the 2009 Games.