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Meet England Women's Footballer, Toni Duggan

Courtesy of Nike
Toni Duggan is the 24-year-old Liverpudlian striker making it big in a man's world. She's scoring the winning goals for the England women's football team and Man City WFC, and she's working hard to improve the image of the game for girls.

The sport has come a long way in recent years. Gone is the time when football was just a game for guys, "tomboys", or the little sister roped in to play in goal. Now, if you want to get fit, have a kick about or play at a competitive level, there are women's leagues out there for everyone. Teams such as Hackney's Boiler Room Ladies are doing a lot to improve the image of the sport in London and bringing it into the mainstream. They're even getting sponsored by top brands, appearing in music videos and proving that the game is inclusive, and cool.

Things are looking up for the next generation too, with many schools offering football for both boys and girls, instead of the old-school 'netball for girls', 'football for boys' set up. About time, too.

Refinery29 caught up with Toni at a Nike photo shoot to find out how she went from playing football with her brothers on the streets in Liverpool, to playing for her country.

How did you get into football? Was it at school or via siblings?
It was through my siblings. I've got an older brother and a younger brother and I was always out playing with them and the lads on the streets in Liverpool. I was the only girl. It wasn't really the done thing for women to play football back then and I got a lot of stick because of it.

Was that from the boys or girls?
More from the lads. They'd say "she's not good enough, she can't play." It wasn't nice at the time but it probably made me work harder. I've spoken to girls in my team from Leeds, London and Manchester and they all found it difficult too. It was just like that at the time. However, I don't think any girls playing in ten years time will say they get bullied. I don't think that will happen. Things have changed a lot.

When did you stop playing with boys and start playing for a girl's team?
When we were younger we all had similar abilities, but the lads football became more physical and so I had to go and play for a girl's team. I was disappointed that I had to make that switch but I was glad I stayed with the lads for as long as I did, as it meant my game was much quicker.
Are you better than your brothers now?
Haha. Yes. They don't play professionally, they just play casually with their mates.

Do you think women's football is encouraged enough in schools?
I played at school but was told I couldn't play in the all boys' tournament. I think a lot of progress has been made though; I go into schools sometimes and most classes today have boys and girls teams. The situation is definitely improving and there's certainly a pathway there now for girl players.

What makes a good footballer? How much do you think is natural talent versus hard work?
Natural talent can take you so far, but in the end it's hard work that gets you there. I've seen people with unbelievable talent who, along the way, fell out of love with the game and stopped working hard and now they don't play at all. It takes both. And of course, working hard is great but you do need the naturally ability.

How much do you train?
I train more or less every day and then I have one day of recovery a week. Even then I still have to be at the training ground doing things like yoga stretches or strength training. It can be pretty tough. Plus you have to eat all the right things.

Have you ever felt like you missed out on doing normal 'young person' things, such as going out, or do you feel this has been a sacrifice worth making?
It was more difficult when I was younger than it is now. Being 16 and missing friends' birthday parties was hard, but it was the right decision. It's my profession and part and parcel of that is missing out on certain things. It the same with other jobs too; you have to make sacrifices.

Do you think football is encouraged enough just for fun for women, as opposed to at a competitive level?
I think nowadays there are a lot more women's teams that people can get involved in and it doesn't really have to be at the next level. It's become a lot more accessible throughout the age groups and the progress that has been made is unbelievable. Having said that, there is scope for improvement on the casual side. In terms of playing for fun on a Sunday or just having a kick about, it's not as common as men's but it's certainly getting there for the women.

Shop Toni Duggan’s NikeWomen Summer edit at, and follow her on Twitter