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‘It’s been my freedom’: Caley Thistle Women stalwart Kim Jappy prepares to step away from football aged 46

The Inverness goalkeeper is hanging up her boots and gloves at the end of the season.

Caley Thistle goalkeeper  Kim Jappy. Image: Sportpix for SWF.
Caley Thistle goalkeeper Kim Jappy. Image: Sportpix for SWF.

There is a slight feeling of deja vu for Caley Thistle Women goalkeeper Kim Jappy as she is set to retire… again.

She announced her retirement in 2018, then 42, but her boots and gloves weren’t hung up for long as she returned to Inverness around 2020.

It was originally meant to be as a favour to help out coach and long-time friend Karen Mason for a few games, but Jappy, now 46, is ready to call it a day for good after a campaign where she has only missed one match to date.

Jappy’s swansong will be the Caley Jags’ SWF Championship final-day clash with Hutchison Vale, but up first is a trip to Greenock Morton on Sunday.

The goalkeeper’s second attempt at retirement has come with its hiccups.

Her last game was originally meant to be at the end of March, but a broken arm to newly-signed keeper Jennifer Horrocks extended her time between the sticks.

Having first signed for the Highland club in 2004, Jappy feels ready to step away from the sport which has given her so much over the years.

Playing has brought its challenges in recent years, due to health struggles off the pitch, but, even in the toughest of times, football has still be a constant for Jappy.

Jappy makes a good stop against Livingston earlier this season. Image: Sportpix for SWF.

“Football has always been what my Sundays are about,” said Jappy.

“When I wasn’t well – I was blue-lighted to hospital last February because of my crohn’s and I had to stay in for five days – straightaway I was thinking about how many games of football am I going to miss.

“I text Karen to say I’d miss the game on the Sunday and I was hopeful I’d be able to play the next weekend.

“It’s always been my freedom. For those 90 minutes, you can forget about everything and just focus on the game.

“Don’t get me wrong there have been times where I ask: ‘why am I still doing this?’, but it’s always been my own space and nothing could affect me when I was playing.”

Friends, famous players and pinch-me moments

Jappy has been a stalwart of women’s football in the north of Scotland.

Before signing for Inverness, she played for Moray Ladies which she helped establish in 1996.

With the Elgin-based side, she won promotion to the highest level of the domestic game – a league she also played in for several seasons with the Highlanders, coming up against Scottish heavyweights such as Glasgow City and Hibernian.

Jappy looks back at her career fondly.

But, with women’s football currently experiencing its biggest boom, she wishes her career was just starting – not ending.

“I’ve made lifelong friends who I wouldn’t have met without playing,” said Jappy.

“I’ve played against players who are quite famous now, but weren’t that famous back then. It’s all those kind of experiences.

“You can walk down the street and people will say hi because they recognise you from the football, or the young players at Inverness ask for our autographs. Those are pinch-me moments.

“But I would love to have my time again, because women’s football is just huge right now and it’s only going to get better and better.

“It’s really moving forward and it must be really exciting for the youngsters coming through just now.

“It’s a little bit of a sore point to admit you’re away to retire and you’re getting a bit older, but I have to realise this is my age now – especially recovery-wise.

“There’s not much prisoners when you’re diving about a goal.”

Kim Jappy in action for Inverness in 2012.

Team need a goalie who can be at training

Jappy is coming to terms with her looming retirement and, while there are things she will miss, she believes it’s the right time to stop playing – for herself and the club.

The goalkeeper doesn’t train during the week, due to being based in Bettyhill – which is a five-hour round trip from Inverness – and is kept busy due to the intense work on her croft.

She believes having a goalkeeper, such as Horrocks when she is back fighting fit, who can attend training, would help boost the team’s fortunes.

“When I retired in 2018, the biggest thing then was just not being part of the team,” said Jappy.

“I’ll miss seeing the girls on Sunday, but I feel that the girls will get a boost when they have a goalkeeper at training.

“They can work on crosses and set-pieces, which is important, especially for where they want to be going forward and wanting to push for promotion.

“The girls need a consistent squad and that consistency has to come with players being at training.

“I’ll still be following the team, watching when I can and will be keeping in touch.”

The other north fixtures

In Biffa SWFL North on Sunday, second-placed Inverurie Locos travel to Dyce, while Huntly host Stonehaven in the other all-north clash.

Basement side Westdyke Thistle are away to East Fife, and Buchan who sit second-bottom are on the road to face Dryburgh Athletic in Dundee.