Football: It's much more than a game, it unites us and gives us hope
I began my ‘sporting career’ as a community campaigner and my first notable campaign (and writing experience) was in fact starting a petition at primary school to allow girls to play football in PE and have our own team.
As a result, I got on a Sky Sports scholarship and have kept playing ever since, when I can.
I joined a grassroots women’s team after moving to Wakefield from Sheffield and then set-up a club. It was much more about creating an accessible ‘movement’ of women come rain, shine, family, and life challenges!
From breastfeeding on the sidelines to attending church in our kit, it's a relief to see things have progressed to make sports more accessible again (although I do run a free blog YorkshireFamilies.co.uk and we are exploring why sports stadiums and the ticketing process are still full of barriers pre- and post-pandemic for disabled people).
That said this Euros has seen our team of footballers all with a social conscience; standing up against racism and homophobia, raising money for the pandemic and campaigning for free school dinners whilst sharing their own background stories - our young national team not only visually, but more importantly moralistically, share the values and have the lived experience of true England.
For me it has been a time of separation, as I have spent most of the Euros in hospital, away from family, friends and my accessibility writer I coach on Skype. That said he is an avid football fan, nicknamed Digital Dan, and I’ve been teaching him podcasting skills and listening to his passionate podcasts to keep me up to date!
Dan, who has autism, has also learned how to create his own sports blog. He writes: “Football has united me and my social media coach in different ways during the Euros.
"The Euros is a major competition that only comes around every four, or in this case five, years, and a rare chance for your country to win something, so I got excited when it came round and hoped England would have a good tournament with their young and exciting squad.
"The Euros has taught me how to structure my blogs in a way people can understand who may not have followed the tournament, and it’s also taught me how to do short podcasts on key points of games.
"It has given me a schedule and a purpose and it’s given me new skills like talking into the phone to do a podcast. I’ve included video links to highlights and I’ve also been updating my social media coach while she’s been in hospital, by sending her match reports and putting them on Yorkshire Families and my own sports blog, dansssportsblogweb.wordpress.com.
"Sophie's been in hospital, so she’s missed all of the action apart from one game, when she got told off for going near the men’s ward to watch, but she’s been happy with my updates as we both love football and even though she hasn’t been able to watch much of the Euros she has been healing and recovering very slowly.
"England didn’t win it, but they have made the country proud of the national team once again.”
I see this period a big win for the team in ethics, a new generation of sport and life has emerged from the darkness of some of this pandemic.
We are so grateful to all the sports teams keeping our communities thriving in lockdown and beyond. Now is the time for grassroots to rise up and be truly as respected as the humble roots of our beautiful national squad, no longer people of fame and WAG tokenism but true heroes much like the staff, volunteers and healing patients here in hospital.
I for one am on the early bird watch for tickets to the Women’s Euros next year and the World Cup. Good things come to those who believe, dream and play sport in harmony!