“Just do it, bite the bullet. Get out there and see what happens.”
I was a tomboy, playing with the boys – I played really well. I had a younger brother and I played better than him – unashamedly. Up until I was sixteen, I played in women’s teams then it faded away. I’ve always been football mad, a Celtic fan. I moved from Scotland to London in 1974 and went through the process of getting married, having kids. I taught my son to play, be a good goalkeeper. There wasn’t any football for women especially mothers back in the day.
I noticed recently there was something about Walking Football on the Arsenal Football Club’s website. It’s part of Arsenal in the Community. I went along with one of the Gay Gooners (the Gay supporters’ group) and the Arsenal staff were very welcoming. It’s mostly guys, but we all get along really well, there’s no issues about being too old or too fat or too thin.
Now Arsenal have created and funded a Saturday morning slot for women of all ages who want to play football and Walking Football, its embryonic but it’s a start. One of our number has a coaching badge and so far, we’ve got seven women of all denominations and sexuality who play regularly. They are mature women, like myself and are happy to play alongside people who are out. I hope that with Arsenal’s support, we can get something really good going for older women. Recreational football for women of all ages and abilities is on the up. The Dick Kerr Ladies tournament takes place in the North West every year and we plan to take a team in the future. We were invited to enter a tournament in the summer organised by the multi-award-winning Crawley Old Girls Women’s Recreational Football Club. It was an amazing day out with over ten women’s teams taking part.
Some of us are nearly seventy, there’s no age limit and it’s a chance to meet other people who are the same age, have a nice time, a bit of banter, cup of tea and make new friends.
We support one another; some of us are Arsenal fans some of us support other teams, it doesn’t matter. We play indoors on a grade 4 AstroTurf pitch and there are changing facilities lockers and hot showers too. Just come along bring some trainers, warm up and get into it. No one will judge what you look like, what you are wearing or how you play.
The benefit for me is that I keep moving. When you’re over fifty, it’s a big, bonus. We all move at the same pace – we’re not playing with twenty somethings. There are health benefits and the camaraderie is great. There are no problems playing in a team of mixed lesbian and straight women. Past a certain age your prejudices seem to go out the window and I’m totally relaxed being out in the group. With the guys, there’s sometimes a bit of banter – it’s nothing that someone over fifty can’t deal with.
Being older, you tend to ‘read’ the game a bit better because if you’ve played before, things that you would try now, maybe a pass, a flick or something like that, you wouldn’t have tried it if you were less confident. It gets me out of the house, away from the pressures of work – it saves me lying in bed on a Sunday morning, reading the Observer.
If you’re over fifty and are thinking of joining a sports club, just do it, bite the bullet. Get out there and see what happens, you never know, you might enjoy it.
If you’re over forty-five and are thinking of joining a sports club. Come along to our Saturday session at 10am or the Sunday session at 8.30am Gay Gooners will be there to welcome you.
Arsenal have arranged another women’s football tournament for us at the Hub on 4 November. To date at least four other women’s teams from across the country have registered to play
For details of the sessions see below:
Arsenal in the Community: Walking Football
Hackney Women’s Football Team also have a veterans team playing informal 5-a-side every other Thursday evening at Market Road pitches in Islington, North London.
To find our other Out & Active Champions, click on their names.
Viv from BLAGSS
Christopher from Out To Swim
Nigel from Goslings London Badminton Club
Sarah from London Otters Rowing Club
Nash from London Royals Hockey
Tammy from London Royals Hockey
Peter from London Otters Rowing Club
Chris and Tina from Waltzing with Hilda and Pink Jukebox
Joanie from Hackney Women’s Football Club and The Federation of Gay Games
Ann from Gay Gooners
Sarah from Out To Swim
Champion interviews by Christopher Preston
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