Only once has a North Wales women’s football team competed in Europe.
That was back in 2002-03 when Bangor City Girls entered the UEFA Women’s Cup, which has been known as the UEFA Women’s Champions League since 2009.
Keith Fearns’ Bangor side qualified for what was just the second edition of the first ever women’s European club knockout competition after lifting the 2001/02 Welsh Cup.
City had beaten Newport in the final to scoop the national trophy for a third time, their previous successes coming in 1996-97 and 2000-01.
Four sides from Britain and Ireland – Arsenal, Bangor City, Kilmarnock and Shamrock Rovers – battled with 28 other clubs from around Europe for the 2002-03 UEFA Women’s Cup title.
Eight groups of four played over four days in eight countries with City drawn to play in Poland.
Bangor’s Group 4 opponents were: FC Sursee (Switzerland), HJK Helsinki (Finland) and KS AZS Wroclaw (Poland).
City came up against FC Sursee first and were beaten just 1-0.
The Welsh team’s hopes received a setback when one of their star attackers, Ceryl Jones, suffered a quad injury and was forced to miss the rest of the tournament.
The Swiss scored the only goal five minutes before half time through Monica Di Fonzo.
Match two was much tougher for Bangor as they came up against a very strong Helsinki outfit and lost 8-0.
However, City fared far better in their final match against the Poles.
Goals from Ailsa Orlik and Iona Williams ensured Bangor led twice in the first half, but a Liliana Gibek hat-trick gave Wroclaw a 3-2 interval advantage.
Gibek added her fourth after the break, but the Citizens were right back in it when Samantha Blackmore made it 4-3 in the 80th minute.
AZS needed a fifth Gibek goal and a 90th minute strike from Justyna Bialasek to finally clinch the win.
City finished bottom of the group but certainly did Wales proud.
Umeå IK (Sweden) were eventual competition winners, while Arsenal went out in the semi-finals.
Bangor City Girls squad
Louise Barlow, Sam Blackmore, Bev Bourner, Kelly Davies, Nicky Davies, Siwan Elenid, Cheryl Foster, Ceryl Jones, Tania Jones, Elen King, Manon Lloyd Williams, Ailsa Orlik, Donna Owen, Elain Owen, Gill Smith, Alwen Williams, Iona Williams, Katie Williams, Kirsty Williams.
Bangor City manager Keith Fearns said:
“The Finns were far too good for us. What sticks in my mind was that the Polish crowd took the Welsh to their hearts and supported us against the Finns and the Swiss.
“One of our supporters taught them the Welsh national anthem and they sang it for both those games.
“Ailsa Orlik, from Llanberis, has Polish family and the crowd went wild when she scored. It was a great trip and we were well treated.”
Bangor City Girls midfielder Iona Williams
“It was a brilliant experience for a relatively young squad. The food wasn’t great but we survived a week of random Polish food!
“We played in front of large crowds, 2500 was the highest. Helsinki were by far the best team, they were bigger and better than us all over the park.
“It felt like they were twice the size of us and their strength on and off the ball was a different league.
“I didn’t score many goals, but I’m proud to say that I have scored in Europe!”
Uefa Women’s Cup 2002/03
Group 4 results
Sep 25, 2002 – HJK Helsinki 2 KS AZS Wroclaw 0
Sep 25, 2002 – FC Sursee 1 ([Monica Di Fonzo 40) Bangor City 0
Sep 27, 2002 – Bangor City 0 HJK Helsinki 8 (Anna-Kaisa Rantanen 12, 24, 38, Taru Hakala 22, Rosa Lappi-Seppälä 34, Eveliina Sarapää 41, Katie Williams 59 OG, Hanna Saaranen 77)
Sep 27, 2002 – FC Sursee 1 KS AZS Wroclaw 0
Sep 29, 2002 – HJK Helsinki 0 FC Sursee 0
Sep 29, 2002 – KS AZS Wroclaw 6 (Liliana Gibek 11, 33, 45, 48, 86, Justyna Bialasek 90) Bangor City 3 (Alisa Orlik 5, Iona Williams 28, Samantha Blackmore 80)