Former England and Arsenal player Kelly Smith spoke exclusively with 90min to explain the unique experience of playing professionally in the United States, the progress of women’s football and most importantly, her stance as an advocate for young girls to receive equal access to football.

Smith was one of the best to grace the Barclays FA Women’s Super League, but behind the scenes, the Arsenal women’s side were treated like ‘second-class citizens to the men’. Now, She fights for young girls everywhere to have the opportunities she never enjoyed. 

You moved to the United States at 17, what was that experience like for you?

“Scary. I had to leave England at that time because the women’s game, 20 odd years ago now, was not in a good place or well respected and my dream was always to become a professional footballer.

“I got the opportunity to go to college in the U.S. on a scholarship, and that for me was the bright lights because in 1999 the USWNT had just won the World Cup and the game was absolutely booming. So I went out there, studied for three years and was lucky enough to play professionally about a year after I graduated. I stayed out there, and the way the professional game was going it looked like the league would start, it did and I signed for the Philadelphia charge.

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