From Inverness to international football to Pennsylvania and back home again, there is not much Fin Annand has not done in her career.
For the 35-year-old footballer, the sport has been her life. Growing up with brothers, Annand was always playing from her early days in Aberdeen through to a move to the Highlands when she was still at primary school.
Opportunities in the women’s game at that point were still few and far between, that was until the late Sandy Corcoran started up an under-16s girls team in the Highland capital.
Annand was one of a strong crop of talent that jumped at the opportunity to play, alongside her current Inverness Caledonian Thistle Women’s teammate Lisa Mckenzie and Scottish international duo, Suzanne and Shelley Grant.
A single Scotland cap for Annand when she was 18 years old was followed by a scholarship with Mercyhurst College in Pennsylvania, where she spent four years.
Having already come out of retirement once, her career is not over yet, but there will certainly be no shortage of highlights to look back on when Annand does eventually hang up her boots for the final time.
“I must have been about 18 when I played for Scotland,” she recalled.
“I was one of the young ones that was taken in, I got my first cap alongside some players who went on to get 100 caps.
“It was against the States, it was in America weirdly enough. It was a friendly, and I think I got maybe 15 minutes at the end of the game, but they were phenomenal. Mia Hamm, the best player in the world at the time, was there and playing in front of a crowd was something I had never experienced. It was quite amazing.
“Club-wise, there was one game, we knocked Ayr United out of the Scottish Cup on my birthday. That was a massive highlight, because that was huge.
“Julie Fleeting was playing for them and they were the team in Scotland. We knocked them out of the Scottish Cup, so that was pretty special. We didn’t win the Scottish Cup, but knocking them out was a huge achievement for us, so that stands out.
“In terms of personal accolades winning All-American when I was at college in the USA was so unexpected. That was personally the thing I’ve been most proud of.”
Some parts of America have been at the epicentre of the LGBT+ rights movement, while others are known to not have a particularly progressive mindset.
This has been thrust into the spotlight even on UK shores recently, with controversy surrounding American chain Chick-fil-A opening restaurants in Reading and Aviemore.
But though Annand did not fully embrace being gay until she was in her early 20s, she insists that was a purely introspective matter, and not influenced by the culture in the States which she found to be fairly accepting.
“It’s definitely a different culture, but I was in the north east in Pennsylvania, which is quite a liberal state,” Annand explained.
“I didn’t come out as anything in America until my senior year. There were people that knew, pockets of people, but even to my team I wasn’t fully open. I got made captain in my senior year, and I felt like these people were my friends and teammates.
“Some knew and some didn’t, so I was like ‘why am I not being open about who I am?’ I guess for lack of a better word I came out at that point.
“Not that it should matter, and it wouldn’t matter to me now, but there was nobody in my team that was gay when I was in America, openly anyway. I was the odd one out at the time.
“As you get a bit older you realise there were people, but at that time it just made it a bit more uncomfortable. Once I told everyone, the majority of people were absolutely fine. The culture is different, it’s definitely different, but for the most part everyone was very accepting and I’ve still got loads of really close friends out there now.
“It was more within myself, because I didn’t know fully. Some people say they know from a very young age, 100%, but I never felt like that. I just became aware of it over time, and it took me a while to accept that it was 100% my identity.
“I identified as bisexual for quite a long time when I was younger, and again not because I was ashamed at all, I was just figuring myself out. I was figuring out how I wanted to live and what my preferences were. I would say when I came back from the States was probably when fully accepted it.
“It was never an issue in the Scotland set-up either. I was more comfortable in that environment at first than at back home, and I don’t know if that’s because people from the central belt, bigger cities where there is more diversity. It was maybe easier within that set-up to be yourself initially.”
Annand’s story is a positive one off the pitch just as much as it has been in football, being supported by loved ones wherever she has been, but she knows that not everyone is as fortunate as her.
Slowly but surely progress is being made, with this summer’s ProudNess event seeing around 10,000 people walk the streets of Inverness in support of LGBT+ identities.
Much like former teammate Kim Jappy, Annand prefers to just live her life and not shout about being gay, but she does feel that as time moves on there will continue to be a generational shift as more and more people talk about it.
“I know people who are still having horrendous times, and I struggle to understand it sometimes,” Annand admitted.
“I can’t believe people would be like that to their own family, their own children, but it does happen. I think I’ve been extremely fortunate with my friends, family and network of people that I haven’t experienced any real level of disappointment or homophobia, but I do know people that have recently.
“Although I’m not seeing it, it’s still there, and there are still people who see it as a disappointment. It breaks my heart when I see friends going through that, almost as if they’re not choosing the right path in life.
“In general there has been a massive change in culture and awareness in so many things. You see things on the news that you would never have seen before, there are things being talked about that were never talked about before.
“It’s not this taboo thing anymore. I do think the younger generation, I genuinely think for teenagers now it’s not really a big deal. I don’t think they care. As they grow older hopefully anyone who has been left with those outdated ideas will be pushed out and I think it will become more accepted overall.
“That’s what I think is happening across the board, not just with sexuality. Everything is starting to move towards that, and I think it is a lot to do with the media latching on to it and talking about things. TV programmes are showing things that they wouldn’t have shown 10 or 20 years ago, and I think all of that is shifting the overall consciousness of everybody towards, hopefully, a more equal and accepting place. It’s the same with women in the workplace, loads of different things have been changing.”