Manchester City goalkeeper Karen Bardsley says that representing Team GB at a second Olympic Games would be ‘absolutely unreal’.
The 36-year-old is one of four goalkeepers to be selected by England interim head coach Hege Riise for this month’s international friendlies against France and Canada.
The fact that so many goalkeepers have been included in this month’s squad suggests that Riise is yet to decide on who to select to represent Team GB at Tokyo 2020. Should Bardsley secure her place on the plane to Japan, the player admits that being part of a second Team GB squad in her career would be an amazing achievement.
“It’s great, it’s pretty awesome,” said Bardsley when discussing her chances of making the Team GB squad in an England press conference.
“I remember being 16 years old, sitting in the quad in high school with some of my friends over lunch talking about which tattoos we would get. I said that the only way that I would get a tattoo would be if I went to the Olympics. We all laughed it off and low and behold, I ended up going. That will be forever in my mind and etched on my wrist.
“I never thought it would happen. For it to happen once was a dream and for it to happen again, wow, it would be absolutely unreal. It would be really, really high up there on my list of achievements for sure.”
Bardsley played every game for Team GB at London 2012 and while she believes that the team created a legacy in that tournament, she says that there is no better time to sell the game than now.
“I know that it left a lasting impact on a lot of people,” Bardsley said. “Ellie Roebuck told me in training that she had a Team GB shirt and we were joking at the time that it probably said Bardsley on the back, it was pretty funny.
“It obviously influenced a lot of young girls to take up football or even young boys to see women’s football on TV at that time.
“I do think we started that legacy but now it is about taking that legacy and doing something really powerful with it and I think that is what we are doing. We are trying to change perceptions of women’s football and female athletes. Performing is our top priority but on the way, we want to help change how people think about women’s football and female athletes and to set a precedent that it is ok to play football as a girl at a young age in school or however you choose to do it and it can become a career.”
The draw for the group stage of the women’s football tournament at Tokyo 2020 will be conducted later this month while Team GB head coach Riise will name her 18-player squad next month.