Gemma Fay has praised the Sunday Mail sportscotland Scottish Sport Awards for helping to give women’s football in Scotland the platform it deserves.
The keeper made history when she led out the Dark Blues, who were named Team of the Year at the 2016 awards, at their first European Championships.
Gemma retired from international duty after the finals in the Netherlands and quickly discovered more evidence of the impact women’s football is making across the gender divide.
“I was speaking to a woman recently who said ‘my son cried when you retired’.
"I was quite taken aback by that," Gemma said.
“She said ‘you’re his favourite player’ and to hear that a young boy has seen the women’s team play, has a favourite player and doesn’t care that it is a woman, I think that’s huge and that’s the opportunity that football has.
“To use both the men’s and women’s teams as inspiration for each other and for boys and girls not to feel like they have to choose who to support… I think we have the opportunity to break down gender barriers within sport.
“We have fought for many years to get more media attention, to get more exposure, to just be able to show people what women’s football is and what it can be. The opportunity is out there for the general public to come and see the product that it is.
“To be the first senior team since the men’s side at France ’98 to reach a major finals was huge and to be recognised for that by winning the award was incredibly humbling and not something that we ever thought would happen at a national level.
“So to win an award where you are nominated by the public was quite amazing for us, having fought for so long to show people what we can do. It was special.”
Gemma, 35, hopes that after seeing Scotland compete on the international stage more youngsters will get involved in football, creating success in both female and male sides of the beautiful game.
She said: “Last year was a huge year for the team, we had come so close on so many occasions, so to actually get over that final hurdle and start something that we hope will go on for many years in this country, which is national teams qualifying for major championships.
“It drew attention to those in Scotland who didn’t realise how big women’s football is globally. It’s huge in other countries like Germany, England and Spain. I think it really opened the eyes of everyone and it certainly raised the awareness.
“I want every child to have the opportunity to take part in the sport if they want to. You don’t need to be the best at football to want to play football.”
Find out more
Everything you need to know about the 2017 Sunday Mail sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards
Look back at last year's Sunday Mail sportscotland Scottish Sports Awards winners