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.