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Teenager Zoe Saunders called up by England
A BASINGSTOKE teenager is celebrating after being called up to the England Colleges Under-19 women’s football team.
Zoe Saunders, who is 17 and lives in Belvedere Gardens, Chineham, will make her international debut against Wales on Friday March 15 at AFC Telford’s New Bucks Head stadium.
Her venture into football started as a 10-year-old after a friend persuaded her to sign up for local side Loddon, where she stayed for a year, before joining Oakley U12s for two years.
Centre-back Saunders also represented The Costello School, where she was a former pupil, as well as other teams around Basingstoke.
She said: “I was told about the England call-up by the coach, Kelsey Byrne, on New Years’ Eve. I was obviously ecstatic and I was so proud of myself that I would get the chance to play for my country. It is the biggest honour of all.”
Saunders also helped her college team, Itchen, win the British Colleges South East Counties trophy, beating Bromley College 4-0 after a semi-final win over Winchester’s Peter Symonds College by the same scoreline.
At 17, she will be two years younger than the majority of her team-mates, but that is not something that fazes her.
She added: “I’m not nervous that the other girls are older than me. Of course it is hard battling for places, but it’s all part of the game. I always look forward to new challenges that are put in front of me.”
Saunders will play alongside a familiar face after her Itchen team-mate, striker Jodie Brett, was also called up to the national team and she feels that can only help her to settle in to the side.
“Having someone I know helps me greatly as it is much easier to deal with the pressure that comes with it.
“I play alongside Jodie at college, but it will be a completely different experience lining up with her for our country,” she said.
“I won’t treat this any differently to any other challenge I have faced and I will play to the best of my ability.”
As a Spurs fan, Saunders had no hesitation when asked who she regards as her biggest influence and footballing icon.
She said: “Being a Tottenham supporter I would have to say the footballer I look up to is Gareth Bale.
“I love the way he plays even though it is an entirely different position to me.”