Forward Play! celebrates women’s football legends through illustration, from Ellen White to Marta
The project raises money for Football Beyond Borders and aims to inspire the next generation of young girls to take up football.
- Olivia Hingley
- 26 July 2023
While women’s football has seen a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years, the rate of young girls getting involved in the game is still discouragingly low. Forward Play! is a project from Eve Warren – senior creative at Manchester agency Love – that aims to inspire the next generation of girls to take up football.
Eve has rallied together over 30 established and emerging illustrators to create artworks inspired by icons from the women’s game. The artworks will exist as a limited run of stickers, a pull-out poster zine, and will go on display from tomorrow (27 July) at Colours May Vary in Leeds, with all proceeds going to Football Beyond Borders, a charity that uses the power of football to change the lives of young people. Running alongside the physical project, there will also be an outreach plan for grassroots teams in Leeds, aiming to expand exposure and inspiration.
Throughout the project, you’ll find Japan’s biggest women’s football legend Homare Sawa realised by Genie Espinosa, England Midfielder and homelessness advocate Fara Williams illustrated by Flo Burns, and Sue Lopez, an England player from the 70s who now advocates for the women’s game, portrayed by Joel Burden.
The 2022 Women Euro’s signalled what Eve describes as “a new dawn for women’s football”. A record breaking 17.4 million people watched the Lioness’s take the victory, and in March 2023 the UK government announced that it would provide £600 million in funding to help girls get equal access to the game. This campaign was spearheaded by England Lioness Lotte Wubben-Moy – a footballer we talked to in a recent feature focusing on the intersections of football and creativity.
Despite moves in the right direction, Eve explains that girls still have limited opportunities in football, “especially those who are passionate about football but disengaged in school, or who are from areas of socioeconomic disadvantage”, Eve says. Football Beyond Borders 2023 report Inspiring a Generation found that 63 per cent of teenage girls still can’t name any of the Lionesses, 25 per cent of teenage girls have never watched a women’s football game, 67 per cent of teenage girls don’t follow any women’s football players on social media.
The passion is fuelled by Eve’s personal love of football. While she played in her youth, she dropped the sport in secondary school due to the lack of local teams and it not featuring in the curriculum, before rediscovering her passion during the 2019 women’s World Cup. Eve’s experience in the creative industry helped the project, with her tapping into her network a bank of creatives on her wish list, like Stan Chow a “fellow Manchester United supporter” who’s depicted all of the big stars. But, Eve was also set on giving a platform to emerging creatives too. “I wanted to give other up and coming talent a chance, those who have different styles to what you would usually see on a Nike ad,” she ends. “There’s a lot of great characters in Women’s football and it’s been super interesting to see how artists have brought them to life.”
Forward Play: Sue Lopez by Joel Burden (Copyright © Joel Burden, 2023)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.