A Debut of Champions
With Lions’ six-time British champion Ruth Matta teaming up with USA’s premier national champions, the Boston Renegades, for a season long sojourn in north-eastern America, today’s the day, the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) Division One title holders hit-up the 2019 season.
Taking her first steps on the gridiron in less than 10 hours time we caught up with the pocket-battleship, ahead of her flight to Tampa, to see how she’s both settling in and indeed looking forward to the season ahead.
You flew out to Boston pretty much straight after Sapphire, how have you settled in thus far?
I’ve just hit the month milestone since my arrival and I feel I’ve settled in better than I anticipated if I’m honest. The morning after I arrived I had a slight internal and quiet panic as the realisation of what I was doing suddenly dawned on me. That feeling didn’t last too long though as I figured I had to just get on with things and make the most of my opportunity. The fact that I’m living with my team-mate Hillary, whose kindly let me stay with her in the Boston suburb of Norton, has helped me settle in massively. She’s been great in inviting me everywhere and letting me tag along with her social plans, introducing me to a lot of her friends and even family. I feel like I’m getting a real grassroots New England experience so far…I’ve even gone to a high school Mr Mansfield (male pageant?) which was very eccentric and amusing to watch.
Apart from that I’ve been mainly socialising with team-mates which has included axe throwing, celebrating St. Patrick’s day, playing board games and soon to be group screenings of Game of Thrones when it all kick’s off again.
Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States (so we’re reliably informed), have you had chance to take in the sights yet?
I haven’t explored the tourist scene much as I’ve got 4 months to get through it and I figured I’d tick things off when I have visitors come over.
I’ve headed into main town Boston mainly for football practice and have also done a few things such as the Freedom Walk and I’ve managed to see the Boston Celtics play at TD Gardens before their season finishes so that was great.
More locally, living in the suburb of Norton, its beautiful, but it’s also fair to say it’s a fairly remote place so I’ve bought myself a bike so I can get around independently. I’ve signed up to a gym nearby and have found the tiniest British section in the international aisle in the supermarket for a few home comforts. I’ve been keen to get to know my local area and community first so I’ve been exploring a fair bit nearby, even finding a sanctuary for rescued animals.
What was your initial football focus on arrival?
Integrating with the team and getting up to speed with the playbook was my main focus. There’s been a lot to learn for sure, from all the formations, plays, positions, special teams and even the way the offense is run, put it like this – I’ve been studying a lot! The great thing though is that there’s a wealth of resource out here for me to utilise. The team, and people in general, have been really helpful and welcoming so it’s no wonder I’ve settled in so well…I also think my British accent has made me a bit of a novelty which seems to open up conversations, and I do rather enjoy listening to everyone’s attempts at imitating my accent.
You had to miss the Lions’ 11-aside fixture in Sweden, that must have been pretty difficult?
I was gutted to miss the Sweden game. I’ve been at and played in every Lion’s game, bar one tournament, across the last 6 years – since I’ve been a Lion – and to know that that your team is going off to do battle and you’re not there was pretty difficult. I made certain to follow the game any which way I could over here and fortunately you livestreamed it so I could follow along with every play. Whilst it was disappointing not to get the result we wanted I know everyone put it out there and it will be an invaluable experience for everyone, especially in preparation for future adventures.
You’re immersed into Renegades training now, how different is life on another’s’ training field?
It’s pretty intense and focussed here, which is what I had hoped for. It feels weird being the rookie again and feeling like I’m learning everything from new – you often take for granted knowing the nuances of your team and fellow team-mates so I’m having to figure that all out again. It’s pretty clear to see why Boston have been so successful. Football is a lifestyle here, their dedication and preparation alongside their high expectations underpins everything they do.
You’re effectively a full-time athlete at the moment, how’s that working out for you?
For me some kind of structure is important so not having a job and undertaking a complete change to my everyday routine was a pretty big thing but football is my structure now which is great. Being able to prioritise football ahead of everything and effectively be a full time athlete is what I’ve always craved – I’m able to make all practices, focus on the gym, rest sufficiently and can invest time in studying and reviewing film. I’ve also had great support from EP Sports, where I’m fortunate enough to be one of their Elite Players, so I think I’m as ready as I can be ahead of our season opener.
Do you have any expectations for your first game?
I’m not sure what my expectations are, apart from it being hot in Tampa. There’ll be a lot of new experiences for me this weekend so I’m just going to allow myself to take it all in. Just travelling away with the team and the whole preparation for our debut game will be an experience. I’ll just take things as they come and focus on what I need to do. Essentially I’m just keen to enjoy this season as much as possible as I realise this opportunity is a once in a lifetime kind of thing which very few British football players ever get to experience.
Do you know much about your first opponents?
This is the first time we’ll have played Tampa Bay Inferno. They’re a strong Division 2 team who have previously won their division (Div3) and have consistently reached the play-offs so they’re a team to be respected but our coaching staff have ensured we’re as prepared as we can be against them so we just have to play our game. I’m looking forward to it!
…as are we!
To catch Ruth’s first game for the Renegades, head to their Facebook page where you can find a link to their livestream. KO is midnight BST.
Image © Bellpig Photography with thanks.