“You’ve got time”
“Take your time”
“Trust your feet”
Lessons for (football) life that were told to me by women who helped me to see the (flood)lights in the dark.
Football, in primary school, was an everybody thing. And it was mostly played out in PE sessions with a big yellow squidgy foam ball and seemed like fun.
Football in the playground however was already dominated by the boys -myself and the other girls were fully engaged in playing “horses” – this basically involved pretending to ride around on an imaginary horse?!
So yeh, I guess football was a “guy thing” even then, but we did play some football and we collected panini stickers and several of us had our own football…though mine was purple with a smiley face on it and smelt of grapes!
We already had popular kids even at that age, and they were made up of the boy who was best at football (James) and his “girlfriend” at the time (Carly) I mean with hindsight it feels a shame that at a young age we sort of chose the popular girls based on the fact they were dating a “cool” guy – but outside of this she just was actually really quite cool and funny and would get a colourful hair braid over the summer holidays and had a great house we could all go and play in and she’s remained “cool” in to grown up life, so she’d still win any popularity contest in my eyes. She’s a thoroughly good human. We chose a good one to look up to.
(With regard to primary school dating I didn’t “date” until secondary school and depending on how you “validate” these things I can’t really say I had a “proper” boyfriend until AFTER I left university!! Slow burner! Anyways, moving on…)
So in primary school, football existed for us all but for whatever reason it didn’t dawn on my friendship group of girls to play it in the same way the boys did. We’d go to Evergreen Football club on Friday nights when we were in year 6/7 somewhere in that summer transition between primary and secondary school. We’d hang about hoping to talk to one of the boys who played there? (I mean, again, not really me. I was there. I was aware that I felt funny emotions when I saw James’ older brother in a football kit, but essentially at this stage I was still riding imaginary horses and playing with Sylvianian families….but don’t worry Christmas of that year I get my first guitar and start to get a little Cooler) now Evergreen must have had a ladies team back then? They certainly have one now (actually I hear they have two?!) but I don’t remember seeing them? Or ever really meeting girls who played or being asked if we wanted to play.
I can’t quite recall how old I was but my parents took me to my first football game. I can’t even remember the teams but our family friend John was playing.
It was exciting
It was noisy
There were snacks
I felt part of something
It took a long time to get started
I was wiggly
I was moany
It was exciting
John unfortunately went for a header at the same time as another player and came off…in a stretcher if I remember right?! It was all rather traumatic!
We hated the other player
We were united in our desire to see him lose.
That was fun
We chanted louder for John’s team because he’d been injured and couldn’t play so surely it was only fair they’d win?
But they were losing
We chanted louder
They weren’t actually as good as the other team
We chanted louder.
Nothing feels sweeter than a goal by a team you have started to think won’t do a goal.
We chanted even louder.
I discovered that day. My desire to always support the underdog. That hasn’t gone away yet.
As a kid I did sit next to my Dad on the sofa and watch football occasionally. I found it slightly less mind numbing than watching the F1 with him.
I was there just to be near him and bug him probably, Almost everyone I’ve asked cites “watching football with Dad” as the reason they love football, but watching sports on telly with my Dad was rare and doesn’t really form a part of my football relationship – he rarely watched sport or anything on the telly. My Dad, in my memory, was either at work or playing with us. He was constantly playing with us. Building go karts, spray painting bmxs, taking us to building sites to play in the “trenches” (foundations) – and other such parenting activities that were allowed in the 80s and 90s that probably seem really unsafe now. He was (and still is) the best, so nope I don’t have many memories of watching football with my Dad because he was far too busy being my Dad for any of that stuff 🙂
We weren’t allowed to kick footballs about at school. I guess maybe they would be more likely to break a window?
But the boys (and it was mostly boys) of Kings Langley secondary school weren’t to be disheartened or discouraged by this rule so they used to play football every morning and break time with a tennis ball.
They played right across the main “quad” which, wherever you were coming from or going to, you had to pass at some point. It was a gauntlet of fear -I am not sure if you’ve ever been hit full whack on the back of the legs by a tennis ball kicked full pelt by a year 9 boy but it hurts! But accidents like these would happen with the tennis balls.
They seem to happen more often to unpopular annoying kids who wear nirvana tshirts and spend their breaks in the music department? Funny that?!
There was one guy, used to trap the tennis ball under his foot, give you a little nod of reassurance and keep it trapped until you safely crossed. Possibly he was my first crush. Possibly he has no recollection of doing that. From some detective work (Facebook stalking) I think he’s a happily married police officer now. I don’t think he plays anymore, not even 5 a side, but Facebook can’t tell you everything can it? So I like to think he still has a kick about and is the kind of gent who makes sure he doesn’t kick a ball at someone?! any way I digress. Again!
The girls don’t do football in PE .
The boys don’t do netball.
The girls don’t do cricket.
The boys don’t do hockey.
It’s weird isn’t it?
We ALL do cross country – but in reality only a handful of the good and sporty kids do that -the rest of them go smoke in the woods for a bit and then headback to school pretending they just did the run – this kind of cool rebellion was beyond me and I actually ran it with my other band camp mates!
Schools weird isn’t it!? But also great at the same time.
Anyways. Football becomes the realm of a thing my brother does and also starts to represent a lot of things I think of as rubbish, corrupt and sexist – well done several premier league players of the 90s and 00s for making the beautiful game so utterly unappealing to young women! And there seemingly ends my interest in football.
School goes on. I live without football.
Life, friends weddings, university, nephews and nieces are born, travel, laughter, tears. All these things happen without football. It rears its head occasionally, after all World cup bets and celebrations are for everyone to get excited about right? My brothers still rolling home muddy or watching a game as I roll my eyes with the age old
“I could get that ball in the back of the net for the amount of money he is on”
( little do I know at this point that I couldn’t have been more wrong! One day I discover that I couldn’t get a ball in the back of the net if i joined a five aside league that was so badly attended you actually played rush goalie and one of the four women on the other team has never played football before -but cocky me of the past thinks it looks quite easy this football malarkey)
So yeh. I had a life without football in it.
Fast forward a bit
My friend Holly asks me to sing at Watford ladies as the half time entertainment. I’ve never been to see them play and that strikes me as weird, I mean at this stage I’m not even a football fan but I’ve seen watford men’s team twice? Why is that? Why haven’t I seen the ladies?
Anyways I’m excited! that’s a cool ground to play on!
Oh, they don’t play on that ground?
Of course they don’t?
They’re “just” the women’s team?
Clearly, I have a lot to learn.
It turns out to be the best afternoon I have had in a while. I’m inspired and excited and totally addicted to this game now. I start paying attention to football.
I slowly begin to see all the good bits about it that I hadn’t appreciate before. To the blindingly in my face obvious link between the game and music which never really crossed my mind before.
The addiction isn’t too strong at this point. I take a vague interest. I see two more Watford ladies games. Cos it’s close. Cos it’s cheap.Cos my boyfriend is away for four months and my grown up friends have lives. So I end up back at Watford ladies. Something to do.
My long term relationship starts to end. Before it finally does I actually googled “how to save your relationship”
One of the suggestions was “alphabet dating” basically it’s attempting to go on a series of dates with your partner but each has to begin with the letter of the alphabet, the idea being it’ll help you try new things, rekindle the romance, that sort of thing and so we began….
A was for Aeroplanes and as he was a solider a trip to the RAF Museum was actually something he would like to do…super information gathering geek that he was it was like having a private tour of the museum with the curator themselves. We had fun on those dates. He liked them. But he stopped liking me.
So it was only five letters in to the alphabet that I was left with tickets to something he would never come to.
… and that’s where it really begins.
Because as you may have guessed .…F was for football.
I’m not sure what he would have made of an arsenal game but I loved it. And back on google again this time with “how to get over a broken heart” it advised me to take up a new sport. Feeling inspired by arsenal ladies I found a local team that would be willing to take a fully grown, penguin footed, heartbroken, music geek and let them join them. The first team I try -Bedmond- welcome me. They, without knowing it, help build me back to something that resembles the me before he left. They are my floodlights in the dark and it isn’t until that team dispands and I try out for others and start playing 5 aside that I truly appreciate the chances of finding a team like that was actually unbelievably rare – don’t get me wrong, women’s football has the same ever lasting friendship bonds as any five a side or Sunday league or any sport at all for that matter- but these guys were something special. One player in particular – and she knows who she is – met me on those cold nights with supportive inappropriate banter that brought me back to life.
She talked to me the whole time we played, she passed me the ball, she encouraged me, she remembered to invite me to the Christmas meal.
She definitely knew something was amiss. She didn’t know what exactly but she must have just thought to herself. You don’t just all of a sudden discover football as a fully grown adult – this weird folk musician is here because she’s not quite sure where else to go!?
Either she thought that or she saw some sort of excellent potential in my future career as a right back and wanted to nurture it?!
I mean, it’s possible!?
So I’m kind of ending this story of my love of football where it began, and I’ll probably update one day from that moment to this current one where I’m planning a football EP but for now this blog is a long way of saying…..
I fell in love with football
For the simple reason that
F was for football.
And I doubt anyone would have but if you’d kept a keen eye on my life for the last couple of years you’d have maybe noticed a growing collection of seemingly random experiences….they aren’t so random if you put them in order and look at their first letter.
How to get over a broken heart?
Carry on dating yourself….all the way to Z xxx