Football and me

So todays blog is a little different to my usual topic of disability. My blog is not a disability blog only, but it does tend to be my main topic.

So why am I writing about football. Especially considering I do not play football or watch it (well except the odd game here and there, mainly womens football that i watch)

Well back in my childhood leading up until I was 18 I played football every week, and it was a really important part of my life.

I started playing football in primary school, they let me on the school team even though girls had not been allowed on the team before, I played as a defender. I moved to secondary school and for a few years I didn’t play football, as at secondary school they made the girls play netball (I hated netball) and hockey (always gave me a bad back as the sticks were not designed for tall people).

Then I think it was my mum who found an advert in the local paper about a girls football team wanting more players, so I joined. At a similar time I was picked to play on the schools under 16 team where we competed in the Berkshire league, reaching the final.

I was now playing in my preferred position of goalkeeper.

I moved to play for a different team outside of school, and we played weekly matches (although we always lost we had fun and enjoyed ourselves and were voted the team sportsmanship award for the league)

Then the outside team I played for merged with another team, I was now about 15, I stayed playing weekly matches for that team until I left for university aged 18.

You may be wondering why I am telling you all this, well you see football was a lot more than just a sport to me throughout my childhood and teen years, it was a lifeline.

I was a tomboy, I looked very masculine as a child and teen and was often thought of as a boy by most people. I was bullied relentlessly at school (it was pure hell) and got abuse when out and about in my local town and area from members of the public.

Football was the one place where it didn’t matter that I looked like a guy, as many other players did. I wasn’t yelled at by team mates or opposition, people didn’t refuse to play against me due to how I looked.

I was also on the school badminton team and one match against another school the person I was playing just refused to play against me saying I was a boy on a girls team. That I was an imposter and a freak. She was yelling this at me in the sports hall in front of all of the other members of both teams and the teachers. She went to my teacher and told her she had to remove me from the sports hall. Eventually the opposing player did play against me, but continued to voice her objection to me.

So football gave me relief from all the crap going on around me. No body cared that I looked like a guy, it didn’t matter. I was treated with respect. People respected me as a player, as a good goalkeeper, and as a person. My appearance did not matter.

A few people on my team were out as gay or bisexual. I was not out as anything as I didn’t come out as trans until aged 20 and I never identified as a lesbian or as bisexual. However, having people out as lesbian or bisexual made me feel safer and like it was a welcoming place.

Looking back at my childhood and teenage years football helped me get through them. Football was quite literally at times a lifesaver. Some people may presume it was music that was my main love through my youth, but as much as I loved doing my music I was still bullied and abused a lot within the music world.

Football however was a safe place for me. It was where I could look unapologetically masculine and nobody said I didn’t belong, I was accepted as a good player, not judged on my looks or mannerisms.

So that is how during my childhood and teenage years football was my lifesaver.

1 thought on “Football and me

  1. I used to play football too.
    Like you, being a girl growing up loving a sport ‘meant for boys’ (eye roll), I got a lot of abuse for it. Got called all sorts, but I enjoyed playing and the abuse I got made me want to be better than them.

    I played one match for the year 6 boys team – girls didn’t have a team. The manager of the other school didn’t want me to play, but there were no rules against it. I scored a goal and my team were happy- although they weren’t all happy I was playing before the match started.

    In secondary school some girls managed to get the school to agree to a girls team- although it was only year 7-9, but I loved it.

    I was also playing for a team outside of school. One girl was made to ‘prove she was a girl’ by an opposing team manager – which was disgusting.
    I loved playing as a striker (Bergkamp being my inspiration), but in year 8 I started having knee problems and when our goalkeeper was out with a bad back, I went in goal for training and it was amazing! I was a decent striker and scored quite a few goals – but I was born to be a goalkeeper!

    I switched positions and within a year I got to play for my County! I also got to represent my borough in the London youth games.

    I played for a women’s team at 14, and I was playing in the first few rounds of the women’s FA cup!

    My home life wasn’t great and after the age of 17, I moved around a lot and couldn’t play. It was hard. Then I had my daughter and that is it. Now I have become a wheelchair user, it’s definitely the end.

    I lost my love of football -Although I am going to watch my first ever England men’s game in March at Wembley, as I’ve started to get back into watching games

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