Updated: Mar 25
As many kid's do, I grew up thinking I was a little bit... different. And I was! In my class I seemed to be the only girl who didn't mind running about, getting her school uniform dirty or scraping her knees. I was, your typical "tom-boy". Maybe from having an older sister? I chose to wear boys GAP clothes and most importantly play football. Well... sort of.
When I was eight years old there were only 3 groups of kids: boys who played football, boys who played Pokemon and girls. As you'd expect, I didn't really get on with the girls, talking about the boy-bands, latest hair styles and other vital feminine topics of conversation. I did attempt for some time to fit in with the Pokemon playing guys but that also turned south when I realised I had no idea how to play, own any cool cards, nor care. So by my 8-yr-old math that left me with the boys that did play football. And I was totally okay with that because I thought they were demigods.
However, tiny little me couldn't just waltz up to these boyz and ask to play - I had to prove my strength (literally) and show that I was a tough (3ft 10') 8 year old!
So I became a school bully. I would never pick on the girls, I had to show the football lads that I was more than meets the eye and that meant beating up the Pokemon playing dudes.
I'll spare you the details of constantly knocking down nerds in the hopes that someone might find me cool but lets just say after one particularly brutal kick to a poor boy's shin, I was allowed to hang out with the cool kidz. - You would think that by now I was drafted into their football team but no!
This bully-behavior only promoted me. To goal post. That's right! Even though there were plenty of jumpers to act as goal posts in the playground, for several weeks I was a human goal post. "What did this job entail?" I hear you ask. WELL: I would stand (or sit) as one of the four goal posts and let them hit me with a football, to then say "post". (I think a lot let goals were scored now they had a human target).
Months passed of getting hit in the face with a disintegrating football, when luck would have me when one of the defenders was off sick. My chance to prove myself! And at last I played defense! I was finally one of the cool kids, dribbling, tackling, not scoring much - but that's okay! - and I lived happily ever after. For about one school term, when suddenly rugby was the latest thing and I was back to being a post. I never wanted to play rugby anyway - on concrete? Are you crazy?!!
Whilst this was the case for my lunchtime football antics, I did get enthusiastically drafted into my school's (slightly more official) football team. Which I loved with all my heart to play for: as part of a club, a team, with peers being equals and friends.
Watching the England Lionesses play in this year's Women's World Cup has reminded me of my love of football. Watching men's football with all the money, bad haircuts and constant diving, it made me forget how football can actually be enjoyable not just to play but to watch too. Finally women's football is getting the investments and acknowledgement it has always deserved. And whether England make the final or not, I'll be excitably watching every minute, of every game.
For the love of the sport.