No barriers for England's TV star
Anyone who has seen FIFA's 'No Barriers' TV spot will know the positive message it conveys. Five girls combine with power and skill to break through a wall of prejudice, and find that a whole new world of opportunity has opened up for them.
Yet however inspirational that message was and remains, there is always the danger that such well meaning imagery and slogans remain merely symbolic. Not in this case though. Taylor Hinds, the youngster whose left-foot shot is shown smashing through the wall, was not merely playing a part. Having acted out the dream of breaking through to a World Cup, the youngster has spent the subsequent two years ensuring that she can live that dream. And so it is that we find our TV star shining for England at the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Jordan.
"I never thought I'd be here, playing football for my country at a World Cup," she admitted to FIFA.com. "You just think of yourself as an ordinary girl, going to school, seeing your friends. It's unbelievable really. But it shows what's possible if you work hard."
That, of course, is the message of the campaign in which she played a leading role. It is also all the more relevant in Hinds' case as she wasn't part of the England set-up when the spot was filmed. "She's one of our late developers and wasn't really part of things at U-15 level," explained John Griffiths, Hinds' England coach. "But she came in for a match against Spain and set the stage alight. Since then, she's been an absolute star."
I think the video's inspirational, not only for girls but for anyone who wants to play football and maybe feels they're being held back.
The result of Hinds' recent progress is that she is now playing at a tournament in which the 'No Barriers' spot plays regularly on stadiums' big screens. "I saw it at the Nigeria game," she said, smiling. "I was looking for my dad in the crowd and he pointed to the screens, and there it was.
"I think the video's inspirational, not only for girls but for anyone who wants to play football and maybe feels they're being held back. I was proud to be a part of it. It was one of my friends who got me involved. Her mum had a connection to it, so I went down to London for auditions. There were about a hundred girls who came along, and I went with a few friends. In the end, I was lucky enough to be one of the five.
"I didn't even know it was going to be my shot that broke through the wall," she added. "When you're recording it, it's all so different to what you see when it's finished. I was at a training camp when I first saw it come on TV. I can't tell you how weird it was to see it like that. But it was nice too. I was quite proud."
Pride was also Hinds' prevailing emotion when she reflected on England's campaign thus far. Still unbeaten, after a hard-fought goalless draw with Nigeria and an exhilarating six-goal thriller against Korea DPR in which they equalised in the 94th minute, the Young Lionesses now face a final Group B fixture against Brazil in which the victor is guaranteed qualification.
"I thought we were brilliant against North Korea," she enthused. "They're such a tough side - they've won this tournament before - but we played some great football and really deserved the draw. I think we also showed everyone with that late goal that we'll fight till the very end.
"Nigeria was different but, again, I think we did well. We noticed a real difference playing at four o'clock compared to seven in terms of the heat and the way it changes the game. But we adapted well and know what to expect now, so there will be no excuses against Brazil. This is a game where we need to be ready to give everything to win."
No excuses and no barriers. Hinds, whether on the screen or on the pitch, offers a shining example to girls the world over.