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The Great Britain Women’s contact American football team continue their 2023-24 IFAF European Championship campaign on 13 April traveling to face Spain in Calatayud, Zaragoza.

Following a win over Sweden and a narrow defeat to Germany in 2023, the Lions go up against a Spanish side that took many by surprise early in the tournament, beating current champions Finland 12-0 as well as the German national team 8-6.

With the game a must-win for Great Britain’s gold medal chances in the tournament, defensive line Victoria Ware knows just how significant this fixture is for the programme.

“It’s going to be really fast, and it’s going to be really physical,” Ware commented.

“Spain came out of the blocks last year and nobody saw it coming. They’ve got a lot of speed on the team and it’s really exciting because, to quote our head coach Chris Stone, ‘there are a lot of Ferraris in the garage over here as well.’

“That starts with the defensive line having first contact and setting the tempo. We have to create panic and pressure – shark-infested waters for their backfield. You need to be fast, aggressive and apply that pressure immediately.”

The Women’s national programme returned to camp in 2024 with a number of rookie players joining the squad, as well as a renewed energy and optimism, which Ware believes will be crucial in the later stages of the tournament.

“Camp so far has been really positive. It’s good vibes, everyone wants to be there and everyone’s having a good time, which is the most important thing.

“There’s definitely been a switch over the last couple of camps where we’re really having to focus in now, eyes on the prize.

“I think the national programme is very unique with the depth at every position and the skills in special teams, that’s always the icebreaker if you want to get those reps and get that experience.

“It’s important to have that because that’s the longevity of the program. You can’t fast track that experience, so you have to put yourself around people that want to achieve the same things you do.

“That’s what’s going to help you reach that goal, and our goal is to go out and bring home a gold medal in the European Championships.”

With new players coming in Ware notes the responsibility on herself and other established members of the programme to nurture up-and-coming talent.

“The veterans that we have on the team – they have so much experience, so much skill, and it’s a wide variety of personalities as well, which is great for providing support to lots of different types of individuals.

“Even if you’re not actively nurturing, you can always be a leader. You can always be a leader because people are going to see what you do and they’re going to copy it.

“You don’t even need to be the most outspoken person or biggest personality or anything like that. You just need to be a good role model.”

As with previous fixtures in the tournament, Great Britain’s match-up with Spain will be live streamed on YouTube, providing fans with the opportunity to support and engage with the programmes and the competition from home.

For Ware, that potential for inspiration and connection is a hugely important part of the American football experience.

“Throughout the whole time I’ve played American football, if I’ve inspired someone to get involved in a sport or American football or anything like that, then I’ve done my job.

“You should always leave something in a better place than how you found it, so if you’re not getting that interest and raising the profile and seeing all these exciting young new players coming through and balling out, I almost feel like my job’s not done.

“Flag football is now an Olympic sport, that’s huge. That’s going to help get people involved and it’s a huge step change.

“I have a little nephew and listen, he doesn’t understand, he’s four, but he had a soccer shirt on and he said ‘Yeah, I’m going to play football like my Auntie Tori.’ That was huge for me, I just thought that he’s seeing me doing that, he’s watching me doing that. Setting an example and being a role model for others to follow is really important to me.

“It’s a huge part of why I do enjoy it. I have amazing teammates and friends and that’s part of why you want other people to do it, so they can experience the things that you experience by being part of something bigger.”

Images courtesy of Geoff White