Footballing twins Rio and Steffi Hardy returned to West Cumbria to share stories and show youngsters their skills.

The sisters, who play for Cypriot side Apollon but grew up in Workington, are set to test themselves against elite players in the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the first time next season, but took time out from their pre-season break to give a motivational talk to pupils at Ashfield Junior School in Workington.

Jenna Pears, who is a PE teacher at the school and has followed the siblings’ careers, said: “Because I knew Rio and Steffi were home and especially with the World Cup going on, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for them to come in and explain their football journey to the girls and give them a bit of inspiration.

“They are excellent role models who worked hard and they talked to the pupils about what it takes to be a footballer.

“They didn’t have the promotion that girls’ football has now, but it gave our girls evidence they can be as good as anybody. The pupils were really pleased and asking for autographs.”

The school recently organised a school football festival for girls which saw more than 100 players take part and, with the Women’s World Cup attracting global attention, they hope to inspire as many young girls to try the sport as possible.

Mrs Pears added: “In school we are developing girls’ football and focusing on global goals like gender equality.

“We’ve got a lot of successful boys who are footballers but we’ve had a real push on the girls’ development.

“We’ve got a couple of girls on the talent pathway now and one of them is playing for Blackpool.

“We’ve got some really good players and hopefully this will help persuade them to pursue their dreams.”

The pair, who attended Stainburn School, also visited Workington Academy to speak to girls in the years seven and eight sports teams.

Rio and Steffi started their football careers with Blackburn Rovers, England Colleges and Accrington and Rossendale Academy, as well as featuring for Workington Reds’ youth sides.

They then headed to study in the USA and played for the University of South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference before signing their first professional European contracts for Iceland club Grindavík in the Úrvalsdeild Women.