Joelle Murray, Jo Love and Rachel Corsie are history-makers in a sport where Scotland’s fortunes are at an all-time low.
The trio are part of the national women’s football team who have qualified for the Euros in the Netherlands this summer, and the tournament kicks off with a game against England on July 19.
Scotland’s squad will be announced nearer the time and will consist of a mix of experience and youth in what will be Anna Signeul’s final games in charge, but seems certain to include these three players, who have amassed 303 caps between them.
Despite qualifying for one of the most prestigious competitions in world football, Joelle, Jo and Rachel have all had to juggle a life as a professional athlete with studies and jobs that pay the bills and give them security for when their playing careers are over.
So let’s meet them:
Joelle Murray (above) is captain of Hibs Ladies, one of the two dominant teams in Scotland along with Glasgow City, and recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of leading her team out at Easter Road against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
She works during the day for an insurance company while juggling training, matches and national camps which are usually abroad. Her long days can start at 6am with strength and conditioning sessions, and finish past 9pm after team training.
She has always played for Hibs Ladies despite having offers from elsewhere – playing for the team she and her family adores has kept her from moving. This loyalty, combined with the vast improvements the team has made, exemplified by their Champions League progress, has enabled her to stake a claim for a starting place in Signeul’s team.
Joelle has mentored a number of young players on to greater things with notable ex-Hibs team-mates being Caroline Weir who plays for Liverpool Ladies; Claire Emslie who played in Florida on a soccer scholarship before joining Bristol City WFC; and Chloe Arthur who joined Bristol after a successful spell at Hibs.
Kirsty Smith and Lizzie Arnott are two younger players who regularly play in the Scotland team and Joelle is a role model for the younger academy players to look up to and emulate.
Joelle believes she has a responsibility to help develop the club and ensure its sustainability, given the lack of funding available. This is in stark contrast to her male counterparts who are backed financially both personally and at the club they play for.
With qualifying for the Euros, Joelle hopes this is something that may slowly change as it has in England, where the growth of the women’s game is producing results on the pitch, with England winning bronze in the World Cup and Manchester City getting to the semi-finals of the Champions League.
Jo Love (above) is a qualified scientist who by day works in a laboratory in Glasgow and by night pulls on her boots and plays for Glasgow City, who’ve just won their 10th league title in a row.
Having amassed a staggering 75 caps by the age of 23, she is one of the most experienced players in the national team. Currently on 175 caps (at the age of 31), she will no doubt add to that number at the Euros this summer as her versatility is highly valued by Signeul.
Jo has had to learn how to manage a very successful life on the pitch with a successful career off it. She states that the hardest thing about leading this double life is the time constraints, since any moment that she is not working, she is playing or training for football.
Previously, there was an expectation that she would help at fundraising efforts for her club but their continued success on the domestic and European front at has increased sponsorship for Glasgow City which enables her to concentrate on playing.
Unlike Joelle who has a (slightly) flexible work schedule, Jo has had to prioritise her scientific work first and fit her training around this. She doesn’t compromise on the type of job she does and only works as a scientist because she enjoys the challenge of it.
Fitting in football around this can be a struggle but she does not want to sacrifice one for the other which means she sacrifices other things, like time with her friends and family. Jo uses up her annual leave to play for Scotland or travel for the Champions League which puts a strain on her body as it can be tricky to get sufficient mental and physical rest.
She has helped Glasgow City’s youngsters through their development and they have an all-stars alumni of former young players now playing at Seattle Reign (including Rachel Corsie), Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Manchester City and Swedish team Eskilstuna United DFF.
It is hard not to use the cliché of Jo being a ‘role model’ for young girls wanting to play professionally but her attitude both on and off the pitch is praised by her team-mates. Jo takes her responsibility as an advocate for the women’s game seriously and is aware of the positive influence she can have on youngsters.
Glasgow City’s new away kit states, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ and Love is a perfect example of a role model that many young players can aspire to.
Rachel Corsie (above) was captain of Glasgow City before moving to Notts County and is currently playing for American side Seattle Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League.
She is a qualified chartered accountant, having completed her degree at RGU in Aberdeen and then working at Ernst & Young, achieving this while playing and captaining Aberdeen and then Glasgow City.
Rachel has 87 caps, originally playing as a centre back but now playing in front of the back four. Rachel made the decision to delay becoming a professional footballer in order to achieve her chartered qualification and, with the backing of E&Y, was able to juggle her day job with playing football to an exceptionally high level.
Despite the academic rigours of the career she chose, she amassed over 100 appearances for Glasgow City before departing to challenge herself at the higher level the English league provides.
Glasgow City had a big impact on Rachel as she was developing as a player and the club holds a lot of great memories for her. However, playing as a professional, full-time player has opened up new possibilities for her and made her realise she had been underestimating the amount of rest required by a professional athlete.
During her formative years, she lacked this rest and it could have prevented some of the injuries she has suffered in the past. Male players like Michael Owen have spoken of ‘burnout’ caused by playing too often, too young but a number of young female players play while combining that with school/university/work which could potentially have a damaging effect on their footballing career.
Like Joelle and Jo, Rachel feels a responsibility to increase awareness of the game but, as players, they can only do so much. BT Sport and the BBC have increased their coverage of English women’s game, but coverage in Scotland is still a long way behind. The national team can occasionally be found on BBC Alba, and Scotland’s games at the Euros will be shown on Channel 4, which will open the game up to a much wider audience.
Among the viewers will be young girls who currently idolise Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo. Maybe their role models should be Joelle Murray, Jo Love or Rachel Corsie?