Edinburgh Napier's Jenna Fife is determined to impress, having been called up for the Scotland Women’s National Team which begins its 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup football qualifying campaign this week.
Speaking ahead of the team’s games against Belarus tomorrow (Thursday 19 Oct) and Albania in just over a week’s time, the 21-year-old sport science student said: “They are massive games and we want to make an impression in the World Cup like we have in the Euros.
“They are two very tough opponents but I’m sure if we play well we can get the three points from both games.”
Hibernian Ladies goalkeeper Jenna, who played for the national team at under 19 level, will fulfil a long-held ambition of competing in the senior team.
So when her role model, the 200-times capped goalkeeper Gemma Fay, retired from international duty this summer did Jenna think she was in with a chance?
“Since I was young it was an aim of mine to get into the national squad but it was a big surprise when I was selected, especially at this point in my career,” she replied.
“I really wasn’t expecting it because there are so many Scottish goalkeepers. I’m one of three going away for the qualifiers, but there are five or six other goalkeepers in Scotland that could potentially be called up.
“We also have goalkeepers playing abroad that might be able to come back and play. There’s a lot of competition and that’s what makes it even more special.”
Jenna has come a long way since she found herself playing in goal for the first time in her early teens at Murieston United.
“I played outfield and in one match the goalkeeper got injured and I was either asked or volunteered to go in goal,” she said. “I really enjoyed it and after that I never came out of goal again.”
Now she combines her national football duties with playing for Hibernian Ladies, at the same time studying fourth year of her Sport and Exercise Science degree at the university.
She admits it’s a full-on schedule: “We train five mornings at the national performance centre and three nights at Hibs with a game on Sunday.
“It can be busy especially when you have exams but if I wasn’t studying I’d have to work elsewhere as well. So it’s all worth it.”
Jenna is amongst 150 students supported by Winning Students, Scotland’s national sports scholarships programme for student athletes. Through it she receives funding support and the academic flexibility required to perform at the highest level in sport and studies.
Eighteen Scottish universities and 25 colleges form the Winning Students network with the programme being funded by the Scottish Funding Council. Students at network colleges and universities benefit from a dedicated co-ordinator to ensure they can balance their studies and sport effectively.
“The University and Winning Students have given me massive support in my football career and studying,” she added. “Because I’m doing a sports course the University allows me to go away with the squads and if I miss coursework they allow me to catch up."