Tuesday 07 February 2017, 13:06

Fay: It’s good to take yourself out of the comfort zone

Carli Lloyd, Christine Sinclair and Homare Sawa are among some of the remarkable few to reach a staggering 200 international appearances – and Scotland goalkeeper Gemma Fay could add her name to that list of double century cap-makers this year. Since Fay made her senior debut in 1998 at the tender age of 16, Scotland’s most capped player and current captain has amassed 196 appearances for her country. Now the Scots are set to feature at their first UEFA Women’s EURO this year.

“The proudest thing for me is watching a lot of these current players develop over the years from young talents and seeing them fulfil part of their potential, as well as seeing the national team getting the recognition for, what I think, is only fair in terms of the development that we’ve made,” said Fay, reflecting on her international career with FIFA.com.

“But I’m not really thinking about reaching 200 caps, I’m only thinking about trying to get myself ready for number 197. The competition in the Scotland squad is fierce. Whether you have one cap or 196, it doesn’t guarantee you anything. My focus is only on the next game and making sure my name is on that team sheet going forward.”

Changes Focused, passionate and driven, it’s no wonder Fay finds herself on the verge of a double century of caps. It all started for the current Glasgow City shot-stopper in 1998 when, still at high school, she made her first senior international appearance against Czech Republic in a 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ qualifier.

“On the Sunday I was making my debut for the Scotland national team and then on the Monday, I was back in double maths!” the Perth-born shot-stopper laughed, reminiscing about that day. “I can remember my family being in the stands and being extremely proud to hear that national anthem. Looking back, it was fantastic and if I knew then the opportunity that it would have given me for the future and for my entire life, I would have been amazed.”

Now 35 and with a plethora of experience, Fay has witnessed significant changes in the women’s game after 19 years between the sticks at international level – both at home and abroad.

“If you told me 20 years ago we would have full-time, professional female footballers, I think myself and a lot of others would have probably laughed in your face. But now it’s a reality. You can make a career out of it now which is the way it should be, and women are being taken seriously not just as footballers, but as sportspeople.

"In Scotland, there’s been a change of mentality about what women’s football is: from being an amateur sport to now being seen as professional where all the clubs in the top league train and play as professional teams. It’s taken 20 years for it to happen and don’t get me wrong - there’s still a long way to go. But the attitude and the general culture of the women’s game has changed significantly.”

If you told me 20 years ago we would have full-time, professional female footballers, I think myself and a lot of others would have probably laughed in your face, but now it’s a reality. 

Debut roles While known more for her shot-stopping on the pitch, Fay demonstrated her natural talent for acting when making her screen debut in the 2013 British television drama Rubenesque. Despite not having any prior acting experience, Fay played the starring role among a renowned British cast in the well-received drama.

“It was fun and something that was completely out of my comfort zone,” said the former Celtic Ladies goalkeeper. “I’ve been playing football for nearly 20 years and I know what I’m supposed to do. But when you go into something like that and you’re surrounded by extremely talented actors and actresses who’ve been doing that for their entire life, it’s quite nerve-racking. But I think it’s good to take yourself out of the comfort zone.”

Having made her debut on screen four years ago, Fay will enjoy another premiere of sorts in July 2017 with her first major international tournament. After years of heartbreak in qualifying campaigns gone by – missing out on both the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup and 2013 Women’s EURO at the play-off stage – Scotland will make their bow at a major tournament at this year’s EURO in the Netherlands.

“We talked a lot about being that all so-nearly team and we wanted to change that mentality – that’s not what Scottish football is about,” asserted Fay. “In qualifying for the last few campaigns, we’ve gone out on away goals in a play-off or gone out on the last kick of the ball in extra-time, so this is the first marker that we’re putting down about what we want to be seen as moving forward.

“Qualifying for EURO 2017 was a great achievement but we have an even bigger focus which is the tournament itself. We’ve never been in this situation before but we’re of a firm belief that if we stick to what we’re about, and work hard as a team, that this will be the beginning of something good for Scottish football.”

And with Anna Signeul’s side facing old rivals England in their opening Netherlands 2017 encounter in July, there will be added spice to Scotland’s long-awaited start to tournament life. “There’s no better way to start your main campaign off in your first European Championship than against the 'Auld Enemy',” smiled Fay. “It certainly adds an extra bit of fun to it and it’s a game that we’re all very much looking forward to.”