While England’s men are spending their summer in Russia one Ribble Valley teenager is heading for Brazil to represent the UK, writes David Fearnhead

Kaya-Lily Pottinger from Wilpshire is a member of the all-conquering Eagles. A five-a-side football team which beat all-comers to book their place in the World Finals. The tournament is the brainchild of the world’s most expensive footballer Neymar Jr, and 62 nations spread over six continents played for the right to compete in Brazil in July.

Though the former Moorland and St Bede’s pupil is no overnight success story. Kaya’s skill with a ball first surfaced at a very early age, says mum Erika Anderton: “She was about three years old and we had one of those mini-footballs in the garden. I threw it to her and she just kicked it, and it literally cleared two gardens.

“She was this pretty little thing with bunches in her hair and everyone was just in shock. From that day on she never had a ball away from her feet. I have two boys as well, but Kaya was different. It didn’t matter if it was rain, hail, snow or red-hot sunshine she just wanted to play football.”

It’s a passion which has meant many hours and much money being spent to fulfil her ambition.

“She’s signed to Everton, so it means four days a week I’m driving her to and from training. It’s a struggle as it probably costs around £100-a-week, but to see her playing for England still blows me away. I wish I’d have put a bet on when she was little that one day she’d play for her country!”

Kaya says she’s sent out nearly 100 CVs to local businesses looking for a job but none have hired her as football demands means that she can’t work on weekends or Wednesdays. She’s hoping to set up her own online clothes store Kayalily Boutique in the hope of making some extra money.

“When I was about six I started playing grassroots football. I trained with a guy called Charlie Jackson who ran the football academy at Moorland School, and then I was scouted by Blackburn Rovers,” says Kaya. She played nine seasons with East Lancashire clubs before an offer came in to join Manchester City – one of the dominant forces in women’s football.

“I loved my time at Blackburn but in order to step up a level I needed to be at a WSL1 club. However, City were a very new team and I found at that time the training wasn’t as good as Blackburn so I returned to Rovers for a season.”

It was then she was signed by New Era Global, an agency founded by the former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand.

“I do all the travelling and all the support at home. I’m everything from nurse to taxi driver rolled into one,” adds Erika.

“I don’t have a background in football so I needed some help with someone to come in to look after the professional side. Kaya’s had so many offers from different clubs it all became a bit mind boggling.”

Despite being a Liverpool fan, it was to be rivals Everton who were to sign Kaya as a 17-year-old. She now trains with the first team every Wednesday and impressed to such an extent that she was approved for partial sponsorship through Sports Aid via Lottery money. The Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) now supports some of Kaya’s training.

Having represented England through the junior ranks Kaya is now a member of the Lionesses Under-19 squad, and even at the tender age of 17 has already played in overseas tournaments in the US and Italy. You’ll also be able to see her this summer in an Adidas television commercial set to air during the World Cup.

It was during the shooting of that commercial that she was invited to join the Eagles after captain, freestyler Harriet Pavlou, was impressed by Kaya’s skills. The match was played out on a rooftop carpark in Birmingham and her side were victorious 5-2.

“I love playing internationally and feel so lucky and honoured to be representing the UK,” says Kaya. “I can’t wait to see Brazil and to meet Neymar – that’s unbelievable!”



Tedd Walmsley

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