Parenting, profundities and humour

How was Saturday? — November 10, 2021

How was Saturday?

So Youngest plays football and this year got signed on a training contract with a big league girls academy.

It’s an amazing opportunity one that is sometimes quite tough to deal with. All that pressure to do well and make the most of it.

It is also tough because the contrast between where she is playing her matches (grassroots boys) and where she is training (girls academy) could not be starker.

For instance at training last night the head coach asked her how her match on Saturday had gone.

I was quite interested in her response because this is what Saturday went like….

Her U15 side played an U16 side in the County Cup. She rocked up to take her place on the field with a bunch of 14, 15 and 16 year old lads. She does this every week, usually without the 16 year olds.

The parents were mouthy. Afterwards she said that when she had won a free kick near the opposition parents there had been quite a lot of, how shall I put this politely, scepticism.

At one point our goal keeper was taking flack from an opposition player. Boys rushed in to defend their mate. It got quite lary. A punch was thrown. Cards were shown. One team went down to 10 men.

The opposition persistently referred to her as the ‘little girl’ and mimcked her shouting. ‘The little girl says she has 3, poor her’ etc etc.

At one point 2 of them tackled her at once and she won another free kick. One of them told her that’s why she should be playing with the little girls. She told him to f*** off.

During the contratend two spectators stormed onto the pitch and had to be ordered off again.

They drew 3 all in full time and went to pens. They then lost in sudden death. To be honest I just wanted it all to end.

I asked her what she told her coach when he asked her how it had gone. Her answer?


Not sure it really did it justice.

It’s a Man’s World… — November 22, 2018

It’s a Man’s World…

So here is the thing. My daughter likes playing football. She is good at playing football. Better than good. Excellent.

So has played in Saturday clubs since she was 5. Very successfully. Her current club are brilliant and have always been very supportive of all their players.

But she is also very good at hockey, netball, running- in fact most sports that don’t involve a racquet!

This causes us issues. School wants her to play for them and she wants to as she likes to play sport with her school mates and represent her school with pride.

Unfortunately this means she has to miss football matches for her Saturday league club or has to let the school down.

Fed up of trying to juggle fixture lists I decided to bite the bullet and try to find her a Sunday football club where she could train this season and play matches, assuming they had space, with a view to signing for them properly next season.

The FA, who provide her elite training, helped me find some clubs. And told me how to phrase the email to try to get them to respond. They were all ‘boys’ clubs. Which was fine she is used to that. Girls leagues don’t seem to play on Sundays.

The FA guy said my main problem would be getting them to see Youngest in the first place. He said that once she was in front of them actually playing football she would sell herself…

Alarm bells started ringing.

I sent emails off to about 9 managers.

A sum total of 1 came back. I did not even get a ‘thanks but no thanks’ or ‘we are full try in June’; just silence.

The one who did reply was a bit cagey but suggested he assess Youngest ‘over a few weeks’ reiterating that they were a 1st division side and playing at the ‘highest level’. I knew that, that was why I had emailed his club. The intimation was that he was sceptical but at least he had replied so that was a big thumbs up to him.

We rolled up on Tuesday to training. Youngest did her thing and the manager, coaches and training were great, the boys were lovely and she had fun.

After the hour was up the manager pulled me over and said how impressed he was with how well she played and that he definitely wanted her in the team for next season and this season if a space became available, that she was welcome to training for the rest of this season and that he was convinced she would settle in extremely well.

When I told him he was the only manager who had replied to my email he was not surprised. He said most coaches would have read the word ‘girl’ and dismissed the idea out of hand. He, however, was glad he hadn’t. As he said ‘Their loss!’

Maybe all the other recipients of my email are horribly busy, I know they are all volunteers with more important things than football on their plates but even so how long does it take to write an email? Certainly not the 2 weeks I have waited.

And I wonder how many of those coaches would have emailed me straight back if they had read ‘boy on an England Talent Pathway’ rather than ‘girl on an England Talent Pathway’… probably all of them.

This situation is indicative of the slight under current of sexism in grass roots football. It is not overt (most of the time) but it is there, subtly.

Youngest doesn’t play well for a girl , she just plays well. She should not be picked out for special mention because she is as good as her team mates, she is as good as her team mates and deserves only the praise they all get unless she does something above and beyond. It gets tedious when people raise their eye brows and then say something along the lines of ‘oh when the boys start growing she’ll have to move to a girl’s team’. Have they seen Kante and Shaqiri? Height isn’t a pre requisite to playing good football.

She doesn’t get ‘pushed off the ball’ and she isn’t going to ‘lack in physicality’. She is not ‘more likely to get hurt’. And anyway why is it worse if my daughter gets hurt as opposed to the person standing next to me on the touchline’s son?

She should not ‘concentrate on girls’ sport’ as was once said to me by a (male) PE teacher. She should just focus on the sport she loves.

Her team and most of the opposition she meets don’t see her as a girl, they see her as a player. It is a shame that some of the adults surrounding football find that so hard to grasp.

In fact I think all grass roots youth football teams should just be mixed. Not ‘girls’ football or ‘boys’ football. Just football, with success based on participation, attitude and commitment and, eventually at the right age, ability; but certainly not gender.

The fact that my child does not have a penis should not mean she is dimissed out of hand or treated any differently. Talent, hardwork, commitment, coachability and desire don’t care what genitalia you possess.

Anyway she will be playing for her new side next season (and hopefully before) against most of those clubs who didn’t reply. Their loss.

Predicting the Future — June 19, 2016

Predicting the Future


So here in the UK there is, currently, a burning European issue. It is taking over the airwaves. Dominating conversations. Turning schools and workplaces upside down. Upsetting television schedules. Dividing households.

I am, of course, talking about the Euro 2016 football championships. The irony of the running of the tournament concurrent with our other burning European issue is not lost on me.

I am not a big watcher of football. OK let me rephrase. I watch a lot of live, muddy & cold amateur soccer courtesy of my offspring. But I am not a watcher of professional soccer.

I do partake of Match of the Day. I like its format. The condensing of the whole 90 minutes plus (how England rued and then revelled in that ‘plus’ in their last two games) of matches into small bite sized parcels containing all the good bits, punctuated by healthy doses of Gary Linneker and his side kicks. And who doesn’t think he is aging spectacularly well? It is that truly awesome hair. He looks better now then in Euro 96, despite his unhealthy obsession with deep fried potato products. So, yes, I like MoTD.

But generally during major football tournaments I am not involved. I like it best when the World Cup is taking place in a timezone which means that all the matches are on television in the middle of the night.

This time however I am hooked. And here is the reason.

Youngest’s football club is running a Euro 2016 predictor competition. The coaches sent out a fiendishly complicated spreadsheet for us to complete. It consisted of predicting not only the result of each match but also the score. 5 points for a correct score, 3 points for a correct result.

I ignored that e mail for several weeks until the impassioned pleas for participation to raise valuable funds for our tour next year to Butlins, Minehead became overwhelming.  (The whole Butlins, Minehead tour thing is there in my head. In the cupboard marked ‘Things I will not think About Until They Become Unavoidable’… Watch out for the blog sometime next April…I am sure at some point in his career Vardy went on tour to Butlins, Minehead. That is why I like him so much…)

So anyway we had a go. The kids were interested for about the first five matches. Then they went on the trampoline and shouted random numbers in through the open door in response to my random shouting of team names.

Clearly as non watchers of professional football we had no idea about the relative merits of the various teams. Except that we know some of the most famous stars, but even then we aren’t always sure which of the East European sides some of them play for. It got to the point where I was plucking results out based on such maxims as ‘We haven’t had a draw for a while’ and ‘Who knew Iceland even had a football team’. Etc.

So we sent off the spreadsheet. I wasn’t hopeful. We didn’t have the hosts and possible favourites even progressing from the group stages.

We did win the Best Team Name competition though. That was Eldest. The Cheese Ball Chomping Unicorns have clearly struck a chord.

We applied a wall chart to the, well, wall. We devised a method of filling it in to show the actual scores and the outcome versus our prediction. We were set.

The competition got under way. We got the opening match right. Pure fluke. Then came the Albania v Switzerland match, again correct. I got mildly excited and came in from the garden to watch the end of Wales v Slovakia. When Wales got that second goal I got even more excited, correct again. 15 out of 15. Ok so maybe we weren’t that bad at this predictor stuff.

The kids got exasperated at me wanting Wales to win. ‘That won’t help England’ they chorused. Then I explained that if we won we would take home half the pot, around  £250, and that new CR7s or other ridiculously expensive Nike football boots might be on offer. They started shouting at the screen too.

We settled down to watch England v Russia. I was quite happy with our one nil prediction. Yes England are playing better football than in, well, forever. But England are good at disappointing. I was sat there in a state of unbelievable excitement once the England goal went in. During the four minutes of injury time I was shouting at the screen-‘Just keep it out for 4 minutes’. Twenty out of twenty beckoned.

And then England did that thing they do so well. Snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Well a draw but it may as well have been defeat, predictor wise. And no, Ian Wright, I don’t take comfort from the good football they demonstrated. Five points thrown away in the 92nd minute. And worse a lot of my fellow predictor players were even more pessimistic than me England wise and had correctly predicted the draw. How grossly unpatriotic.

Since then things have gone a little down hill. From top of the leader board to seventh at the last reckoning. Let’s face it Hungary v Austria? -no idea. And who knew about Iceland? I am not sure they knew themselves.

Still it was good whilst it lasted. And our early promise has probably improved my side line credibility, amateur football watching wise. That is if anyone has worked out who The Cheese Ball Chomping Unicorns are….

I know I play like a girl, try to keep up… — June 11, 2015

I know I play like a girl, try to keep up…


I recently bought youngest (7) this T shirt, although in purple, her favourite colour.

And the reason is that my daughter is a soccer player. She adores the game and has played in a team from year one. Since she started a new school in September we have also found out that she enjoys hockey, netball, rounders and long distance running. But given a choice football is what she wants to play.

Whilst I am at a complete loss about where this sportiness comes from, I myself being one of those children who was picked last for every single team sport, every single time, I am immensely proud of her.

I really wanted a daughter. I am not going to lie and say that I was not secretly quite pleased on that last 20 week scan to be told it was 95% likely that a girl was what I was having. I am not really sure why I was so keen on it. There are many superficial reasons, like wanting to be mother of the bride, knowing that daughters tend to turn to their mothers when they become mothers themselves rather than their mother-in-laws, fancying browsing a new section of the baby clothes aisle after two sons.

But I guess the main reason is that I thought over the years I would be able to empathise more with a daughter.

Had that third child been a boy I would have been fine, I love my boys, and another would have been absolutely brilliant. But the fact she was a girl felt like the icing on the cake. It’s controversial to say it but that is how I felt.

And not only I am pleased to have a daughter, I am pleased to have the daughter she is. I am pleased for many reasons but mostly because she is fiesty, strong willed and intensely independent. She is not someone who takes any nonsense and she holds her own in almost any company. She does not see her gender as a barrier to anything. If she is the only girl on the football pitch she shrugs her shoulders, pulls on her shin pads and studs and sets to work.

And that is how it should be. I hope it continues and she can carry that inner confidence long into her future. Because it’s hard, as a female, to do that. I will certainly try to help her with it.

So I am proud of my daughter the football player. Because it epitomises what I want for her in her future. Feelings of confidence, worth & value and a knowledge that she can do anything she wants to regardless of her gender.

%d bloggers like this: