From having to join in with the local boys team due a lack of female participants, pulling on the dark blue of Scotland, travelling across the world to play in Australia and now, notching up her 200th appearance for Spartans, much has evolved in the Women’s game since Louise Mason first fell in love with football during her primary school days.
Mason kicked off her career at Hutchison Vale before brief spells at Hibs then Rangers who she joined Spartans from in 2010. By then, she was a regular feature in the Scotland age grade ranks, with a total of 13 appearances across U16, u17 and u19 levels.
In 2014, a summer Down Under saw Mason enjoy the opportunity to play for W-League outfit Adelaide United before heading back to the Capital and Ainslie Park followed by a brief return to the national circuit with the u23s training squad. After a short spell at Hearts, Louise returned ‘home’ in November 2020, an easy decision for the midfield playmaker.
We caught up with Louise after the recent Scottish Cup tie against Morton, a game that saw the celebrated double centurion handed the coveted Captain’s armband and bag a brace of goals in an 11-0 third round victory.
“I’m not sure if there are many players in this league who have clocked up 200 games whilst at one club – I imagine it’s quite a niche group. For me, I think it shows how special this club really is and it’s great to join Rachel (Harrison) in reaching two hundred appearances for Spartans.
“Spartans is a great club where players join and stay as long as they can. In doing so, they develop as footballers and people making it a real family feel about the place. The backroom staff we have make such a difference in making this a place to truly enjoy your football. It’s not just about improving technical skills, but emphasis on strength and being physically able to compete at the highest level.”
“We see so many of the younger girls in the team who have come through the player pathway system already hitting their key milestone senior appearances, whether that’s 50 or 100, that’s a really special moment for us all to be proud of.”
Her own journey, from its very outset, had more than it’s far share of logistical challenges however there’s a real sense of enthusiasm in Mason’s voice for what the future holds for women’s football.
“When I started out I had to play in a boys team as there weren’t enough girls to make up a team of our own. It’s great to see that this is now no longer a barrier to participation as the numbers of girls – even at a very young age – is increasing year on year. Here at Spartans you have the opportunity to be a beginner at Little Miss Kickers and progress all the way to the SWPL 1 side.
“I think the game’s evolved massively over the last five years or so with supporters and sponsors getting behind women’s football a lot more as a result.
“We’ve also seen history happen with the Scotland Women’s team participating in the World Cup and Euros – it’s all things we’ve been able to watch happen and want to be a part of.
“When girls get involved now, there’s something tangible as an outcome, something to aspire to. There’s visible role models, there’s an opportunity to follow them and become a professional footballer yourself – that’s so empowering.
“When I was 6 or 7 year old playing football that was my dream but in reality it was so, so, far away. Whereas now, that’s no longer the case and if you are good enough at 16 or 17 year old, you could be doing the job you love anywhere in the world – it’s achievable.”
The Women’s top flight in Scotland continues to develop and the competition gets stronger each season as continued investment in clubs and players sees the desire to strive for silverware and compete at the highest level possible.
“You’ve got teams in our league who are affiliated or part of big clubs with significant budgets however whilst we might not have that luxury, Spartans continue to achieve so much on an off the field. We have continued to raise the ceiling this season with players being offering semi-Pro contracts, which is a massive credit to the club for their belief in us.
“One thing I love about Women’s football though is that when you watch the Men’s game, they’ll go wherever the money takes them but for female footballers, we’re here because we want to be here. I love being part of this club and the wider Spartans family, their work in the local community makes you proud to be associated with the organisation. It’s part of our Spartans DNA.”
It’s not just influences on the park that inspires Mason.
“My Mum and Dad and the rest of the family have been there with and for me throughout my career. My parents have driven me across the country and god knows where else!
“Without parents doing what they do for their kids, women’s football wouldn’t have progressed the way it has and very few of us would be playing at this level as a result. Girls simply would have fell away and not played.”
And whilst reaching 200 top flight games at just 28 years of age may deliver a plethora of memories to reminisce about, there’s still many more set to be made in the years to come.
“I want to play as many games as I can with the Spartans jersey on and as long as that continues, I’ll be happy. When it comes time to call it a day, that’ll be that but I’ve certainly no plans to hang the boots up any time soon.”
Manager Debbie McCulloch praised Louise on her achievement, “I’ve had the privilege to watch Louise develop and grow over the past ten years into a great player, on and off the pitch. Her loyalty and commitment to Spartans is appreciated by us all. Louise has been an integral part of our journey and through the highs, and the lows, Louise has always put the club first. She is a key part of our team and club.”