Four members of the AFC Bournemouth Women’s team have returned from Portugal with a European title to their names.
Betty Barron, Molly Clark, Katie Scadding and Gemma Hillier were all called up to represent England in beach soccer and compete on the continental stage, with three wins out of three seeing them bring home the trophy.
A 5-0 victory over the Czech Republic, followed by a 3-1 win against Russia saw the side qualify for Sunday’s final, where they took on Spain for the first time since the World Beach Games in Qatar, La Roja walking away with the gold medals that day.
However, with the side fired up, another 3-1 victory, which saw Clark find the target, ensured the side returned home with the trophy in hand.
Speaking with afcb.co.uk from Portugal, Barron summed up the week: “We’re buzzing and we’re so incredibly happy. We can’t wipe the smile off our faces and it’s just an indescribable feeling.
“It’s obviously amazing because you set out your goals and to actually achieve them is an unbelievable feeling in itself. It’s really quite surreal.
“It is tough because it’s three games in three days and the sand in Nazare is the deepest sand that you could ever play on, so it basically comes up to my knees!
“When you come off, you can’t breathe but the substitutes are always ready to come on by the time you’re having to come off. To be fair though, you do recover fairly quickly.
“Now, because we’ve won this time around, we should be the top seed for the next tournament. It’ll hopefully put us in a really good position for the group stages of that as a result.”
Clark, who had netted a sensational bicycle kick in the opening game against the Czech Republic and added her second goal of the tournament in the final, continued: “The whole tournament it was all about togetherness.
Clark's stunning beach soccer strike
“Our motto was the hashtag togetherness and that got us through each game day by day. That togetherness pulled us through because we’re pretty tight as a squad. It really seemed to work in our favour.
“For some of us that have been before, we kind of expect it, but for the new players it can be quite a shock being on the sand here.
“The weather didn’t really fall our way either, so we had the wind and the rain with the deep sand. It really affects the way that you play so you have to adapt to that as well.
“You also have to change the style of your play because you’re not used to the sand being so deep in England.”
For goalkeeper Scadding, who played every minute between the sticks for the AFC Bournemouth first team last season, the tournament was her first on the international stage.
She explained how the experience was one to remember and something she hopes to build on.
“It was really good. I enjoyed every moment of it and can’t put it into words to be honest.
“It was a great learning curve on and off the pitch. Being with the team was great, we all get on really well and they are all really supportive.
“They help you be the player and the person that you are.”
With the next beach soccer tournament not until September, the girls are now fully focused on pre-season with the Cherries, after securing promotion via a successful application of upward movement.
“I just can’t wait to see everyone again,” continued Scadding.
“With the season being so on and off last year, it’s hard to get back to it again but we’re training three times a week so I’m sure we’ll be ready.
“We’ve got some tough pre-season fixtures in place and they’ll all be a really good test. It’ll just be great to have everyone back and working hard again.”
Clark echoed those sentiments and discussed just what it meant to the side to be moving up into step four of the women’s pyramid.
“From only coming in this season, I think it’s an amazing achievement.
“It’s been coming for so long and to achieve it is amazing.
“For the girls and the club, we’re just absolutely buzzing to get the season started and hopefully show that we belong in this league.
“We’ll hopefully kick on and do each other proud.”
Thank you for your support
Bournemouth University for being our main girls and women's team sponsor, and iPRO and Vitality for supporting the womens' programme.