By Alec McQuarrie, Sportsbeat
Standing at the frontline of women's football in Scotland, Fiona McIntyre registered the biggest win of her career last month, but the battle has only just begun.
After several years at the helm of Scottish Women's Football, McIntyre was recently appointed head of girls' and women's football at the Scottish Football Association – and even agreed a deal that will see the women's topflight football in Scotland broadcast on Sky Sports for the very first time this season.
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McIntyre's incredible work is being recognised as part of a campaign championing the individuals and projects who are supporting women in sport in their communities, with the help of National Lottery players, who raise £30 million for good causes every week. To celebrate her incredible achievements, artist Yoniest Chun, known for his cartoon-inspired work, has created a digital piece of art that immortalises her story.
And McIntyre was thrilled to complete the agreement, which was unimaginable half a decade ago.
"That's probably the biggest single milestone in my professional career, getting that contract concluded with Sky Sports," said McIntyre. "Because it was probably something that three or four years ago if we'd suggested it, they would have thought that was ambitious and maybe even called me a little bit crazy.
"But that's what our ultimate aim is, to make sure everyone knows about women's football, not just every four years but every week."
As part of that goal, National Lottery funding has been vital to provide grassroots opportunities within the sport that McIntyre believes will complete the cycle of inspiration and participation.
"When those young girls look up to role models, they need to have somewhere to go," insisted McIntyre. "They need to be able to find a good football activity or a club and I think that's where the funding hugely helps.
"It allows us to give young girls their first taste of football, help them fall in love with it and set them off on a path that maybe leads them to a national team or one that gives them lifelong friendships.
"For me, the biggest challenge is maintaining momentum. Historically, we've relied on the national team to do well to get that media interest and that puts a lot of pressure on the Scotland team in those six ten-day windows a year."
Scotland missed out on a place at the Women's World Cup as the Republic of Ireland crushed their hopes at Hampden in October to reach the country's first ever finals.
Having qualified for the European Championships in 2017 and World Cup two years later, the defeat means the Scots will miss out on two consecutive major championships - a bitter pill to swallow for head coach Pedro Martinez Losa and his players.
McIntyre continued: "When I was a player, I wasn't particularly nervous, but I know how much it means to the players, the staff, and the group.
"But also, I know how much it would have meant to the wider game, because if we had reached that World Cup, the audience of the world would be watching Scotland."
Before serious nerve damage in her arm put paid to her playing career, the former SFA head of girl's and women's football was Scottish centurion Leanne Ross' strike partner at the University of Stirling.
As a youngster she also played for Kilmarnock FC and was a member of the SFA elite squads, with her talent stemming from an upbringing centred around the sport.
"Football's been in my life since I was born. I grew up in a household that loved football, so it was on in my house all the time," said McIntyre. "I was quickly from a young age the girl who played football, which wasn't quite the norm back then.
"I joined my first team when I was eight years old and that was me from that moment on.
"I just loved playing football so there wasn't much that would put me off, but certainly when you're going through school people presume, you're a tomboy.
"So that's something you just navigate through, but I was actually really lucky with the people who influenced me in terms of parents, PE teachers and club coaches were all really encouraging."
Three additional digital portraits have been created and unveiled by digital artist, Yoniest Chun, which immortalise the stories of other individuals and projects who have achieved incredible things for women in sport in their communities. These include Helen Hardy from Manchester Laces in Manchester, Elaine Junk from Mid-Ulster Football Association in Northern Ireland and Tirion Thomas from Bala Rugby Club in Swansea.
National Lottery players raise more than £30million a week for good causes. Find out how your numbers make amazing happen at: www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk Sportsbeat 2022
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