Her sport may involve a different kind of ball altogether, but leading female golfer Laura Davies is nevertheless well placed to offer an opinion on football.
A lifelong Liverpool supporter, the 49-year-old is a passionate England follower too – a vice which once landed her in some hot water.
In an exclusive chat with FIFA.com, Davies – who, during a career which has spanned more than 25 years, has secured a plethora of titles and accolades in Britain and further afield – explains more, casts her vote on the best player in the world, and remembers her favourite football moment.
FIFA.com: Where did your passion for the game begin?
Laura Davies: I’ve got a slightly older brother, a few years older, and we used to go every Saturday and Sunday to watch him play and I just used to kick a ball around on the sideline – I was only about four or five or six years old. I started enjoying playing it and then obviously started watching it, and that was it really – I was hooked.
Why did you choose to support Liverpool?
I was seven years old at the time, maybe eight, and we lost the FA Cup final to Arsenal with that Charlie George goal. I felt sorry for them and they wore red, and at eight years old that’s probably good enough. Ever since then, I’ve been a fan for forty-odd years now. I love watching them every time they play. Whenever I can, whenever I get a chance [I go to Anfield]. I’m usually away but I never miss a game. I either have it on the radio, or the Liverpool website radio or watch it online. I watch pretty much every game regardless – Europa League, Premier League, wherever they are playing. If I’m on the course, I’ll have my phone on with updates. It’s a bit of an obsession. I’ve not been there enough, for all the great European nights. I’ve never actually been to a European game, funnily enough. It’s just when you hear ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ before they come out on the pitch every match. I think it’s a different sort of atmosphere to a lot of other grounds I’ve been to.
Who have been your favourite Liverpool players during that period?
The really obvious ones – [Kevin] Keegan, [Kenny] Dalglish, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen. Goalscorers, I suppose, they’re the ones that make the difference between winning and losing. Over the years, I guess all the strikers have been the ones that I’ve really followed, but there’s not a Liverpool player I haven’t loved to watch.
I watch pretty much every game regardless – Europa League, Premier League, wherever they are playing. If I’m on the course, I’ll have my phone on with updates. It’s a bit of an obsession.
Have you managed to meet any of them through your career?
I played golf once with Kenny, we played a tournament in Scotland at Gleneagles. I’ve met quite a few. Michael Owen played in Ireland and I had a quick chat with him about the golf and the football. A lot of the players seem to love their golf. They’ve got the time, haven’t they? They do their training and then they have got the afternoon to themselves and their families, so I suppose a lot of them when they are younger go and play golf. It seems to be a planned thing because obviously golf is a very time-consuming game and they do seem to have some time.
Tell us about the time you were receiving updates from UEFA EURO 1996 while playing in a tournament…
I had been to all of the other games because I had tickets for the whole tournament because it was at Wembley. Unfortunately that particular game [England against Spain] was at the same time. I had a five-shot lead when the game started and I actually finished five shots ahead, so I won the tournament. But between shots, myself and my cousin who was caddy for me at the time were having a bit of an update on the game. It ended up 0-0, so I missed the penalty shoot-out because I was at the prize-giving but I could tell by the mood in the clubhouse that we were winning. It’s probably the last penalty shoot-out we ever won!
Would you rather England win the FIFA World Cup™ or Europe lift the Ryder Cup in 2014?
Definitely England winning the World Cup. I love my golf but football is the thing that I love to do away from golf. I was born by 1966 but I was only three years old – I have no recollection of that at all. It would be nice to see us actually win it once.
Who do you think is the best player in the world?
I think Lionel Messi by a nose. I know Ronaldo is incredible in what he does, and there are a lot of other very good players, but Lionel Messi. Barcelona are the other team I love to watch. He is just beyond belief as far as I’m concerned.
Do you follow the women’s game?
Unfortunately no, because it would only be on TV and there’s hardly any of it on TV. I was watching the Olympics and there’s great interest in watching the national side play. I don’t think the Liverpool team is particularly good and I hate Arsenal with a passion; Arsenal are the best team in the women’s game so I tend to stay away from that. It’s fun to watch. I’ve spent a lot of my time in America, there was a women’s major soccer league out there. I know it has folded now but the standard was pretty decent. Nothing like the men’s obviously because they haven’t got the dynamic power of the men but certainly the technical ability seems very comparable.
What is your favourite match you have been at?
100 per cent the Gazza [Paul Gascoigne] goal when we beat Scotland at Wembley in EURO 96. I’ve been to quite a lot of England games, I go away whenever I can. I’ve been to two World Cups and various places with them. But that particular game, we had just saved a penalty and then Gazza scored that goal. I think that’s the most excited I’ve ever been at any football ground anywhere in the world.