BURNLEY’S Rachel Brown will cap a remarkable career by taking part at the London Olympics as part of Team GB.
The Everton and England goalkeeper has played at World Cups and European Championships, and been selected for the FIFA All-Star team, and will now help the first-ever Great Britain women’s football squad at the Games go for gold.
Team GB will take on New Zealand at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on July 25th, two days before the opening ceremony, before facing Cameroon, again in Cardiff, on July 28th, before completing their group fixtures against Brazil at Wembley three days later.
In a distinguished career, Rachel has yet to play at either venue, which is another thrill, and she beamed: “We were told on Monday but were told not to let anyone know, and it was horrible not being able to tell anyone, but now I can, and I can’t believe it, I’m honoured to represent the first-ever GB women’s team at the Olympics!
“It’s a mix of relief and delight, it’s a massive opportunity.
“This was probably the one call-up I’ve been most doubtful about as there are only two goalkeepers, and it feels absolutely amazing.
“I feel very emotional, with all the messages and calls of congraulations I’ve had, it’s so special to be going to a home Olympics.”
The prospect of it being a one-off tournament for Britain adds to the prestige: “It’s beyond comprehension - I don’t know if there will ever be a GB team again in women’s football, so it could be a once in a lifetime experience.
“I don’t think I’ll be playing international football in four years time, so I’ll savour every last drop of Olympic fever.
“I’ve just been out recently to buy an Olympics mug to get into the spirit, and it’s incredible I’m going to be there.
“I’m the biggest sports fan anyway, and I’m a big GB supporter, so I would have been watching every sport I could, but now I’m going to be an Olympian as well!”
The experience of being in and around the athletes’ village is an added bonus, while the squad will be in and around Stuart Pearce’s men’s panel - which could feature the likes of David Beckham, Craig Bellamy and Gareth Bale: “It’s going to be unbelievable, I’ve never experienced a tournament where so many other sports are going on at the same time so it’s going to be so much more exciting than a World Cup even.
“We’re even going to be based at the Olympic athletes’ village a lot of the time, and I’m looking forward to seeing people wandering around.
“We meet on July 8th and the first two weeks are in a training camp with the men’s team, which is exciting again.
“Then we play a double-header friendly at Middlesbrough, where we play Sweden, and the men’s team follow against Brazil.
“Because we’re both based together, we hope to get some of the media interest which the men’s team will attract, which would be fantastic for the women’s game.
“But then we play the first two games at the Millennium Stadium, when we’ll stay close to Cardiff, then Wembley against Brazil - just unreal!
“So we’ll be back at the Olympic Village for the build up to that game.
“I just keep saying ‘wow’, and I think I’ll have more ‘wow’ moments to come.
“I’ve not played at the Millennium or Wembley before, so we’ll see what happens if I’m selected.
“I’ve been to Wembley with Burnley a few times, but never played there.”
She has, however, been to an Olympic Games before, as she reveals: “I actually went to the Olympics when I was 16 after my GCSE’s, when I went to America for some coaching, and I was a ball girl at the Atalanta Games in 1996, at Legion Field, in Birmingham, Alabama.
“It was the first time women’s football was played at the Olympics, so I guess it’s fate that I’m in the first-ever Team GB squad for the games!”
Rachel’s 2012 gets even better, as she prepares for another special date, with her wedding day set for New Year’s Eve.
And the Olympics isn’t the only tournament on the horizon for Rachel, who was back between the posts for England last week, keeping two clean sheets against Holland and Slovenia to put the Lionesses on the brink of Euro 2013 in Sweden: “It wasn’t the prettiest of games against Holland, who we’ve struggled to beat in the past, but we won 1-0, and then won convincingly in Slovenia and put ourselves in pole position to qualify now.
“If we beat Croatia in September, we top the group and qualify.”