Kickoff is tonight. No, not the NFL; that starts Wednesday. Tonight's the first game for the BC Angels, one of four Canadian teams marking their inaugural seasons in the Lingerie Football League.
They make their debut at home against the Regina Rager at the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre. Kickoff is at 8 p.m.
The Huffington Post B.C. caught up with Angels running back Stephanie Manou before the team kicks off its season.
How does it feel to get the season going?
I'm really excited to finally get the season going, we've been practicing for five months now, we're anxious to get to put our skills to use. We're very excited, very confident going into this game, and looking forward to a big win for B.C.
What kind of football experience do you have?
Playing experience? I actually played flag football in high school, so that's about the extent of my playing experience, but I'm a rugby player, I played for UBC, played for their team and their league team as well, I do come from a contact background, but a bit different than playing rugby and transferring over to football.
How did you get into the Lingerie Football League?
I learned about the league about a year and a half ago. For me, it's kind of the perfect combination of who I am, you know, I'm an athlete, I like to push myself, but I'm also a fitness model, so it kind of combined the two aspects of who I was perfectly.
A lot of the girls that have come out for the team are along the same lines, they have the athletic background, they have the drive to play at an elite level, we're also representing that healthy, female image that I myself also exude, so it was great to meet other women like myself who have the same interests and hobbies.
How physically demanding is the game?
It's full contact with less padding. I'm a rugby player, it's not that much of a challenge, it's more of a challenge to wear the equipment. Physically, this sport, going into it, I didn't think it was going to be this physically challenging.
I played an elite level sport before, I played for a university, I can honestly say I've never been in better shape than I'm in right now. It has been a great road that we've gone on and the amount that we've had to learn, and our bodies have had to change to adapt to the physical contact, with the pads, the style of football. A lot of these girls have never played contact sports before, it's a huge adjustment.
I'll be playing with a broken nose, but it doesn't stop me, so I'm just pushing through.
How have you had to adapt yourself?
Well your body adapts to any sport that you take on, going to the gym normally I'd just do a lot of isolated exercises for general fitness, but I've had to change my training program to be more functional and a lot of speed and agility and power work. Like I'll go through doing hurdles, functional exercises I've never had to do before.
I'm a personal trainer, I get to see these little changes in my body, some muscles are growing that I never knew I could change!
I now have a sprinter's butt and I'm really proud of that. My body's adapting, it's a really, really neat feeling and as I mentioned, it's the best shape I've ever been in, and as a trainer that says a lot.
How do you respond to the criticism that the Lingerie Football League is an exploitative sport?
Well, I think for most of the team, and I can speak for them, they just see it as a football team. What we actually have to wear, we just put it on. You just want to get out there and play the game, we're not worried about that, no matter what you do, there's going to be people who have a negative opinion of something, not everyone's going to love what you do.
You try to focus on the positive aspects of the game. Our coaching staff has been great. Coming in, they made it clear this is 100 per cent about the football, the league can dress it up however they need to, but on the field it is real football, not lingerie models, but athletes.
We just hope that people get to come and see what the game's really about, and then they can make a judgment and decide for themselves after that.
What is the most stinging criticism you've heard?
Honestly we've received a lot more praise than we have criticisms. I know people keep focusing on the critical part of it, but we've really received such a warm welcome to Abbotsford and sports in general and everyone's been pretty positive. When it was first announced is when we had the most criticism. The more reports and media we speak to, the better response we get.
I'll give you the personal example, I've heard of people claiming that it was against all women's rights, the feminists were very upset about it. It's silly to me because in my opinion, this is taking a step in the right direction, I think people just need to look at the bigger picture and not just focus on one uniform and not just focus on money. We're not getting paid but we're getting a fantastic opportunity we would not get doing anything else.
The people who have been coming to games are the people that want to see the sport, we sold tickets to lots of flag football teams, a lot other sports teams are supporting us. They want to see what it's all about, we've had an overwhelming response from the community in a positive way, in my opinion more than the negative.
Check out our slideshow of the BC Angels Football