Ahead of UEFA Women's EURO 2022, Sue Smith shares her story about how she got into playing football...
The Women's World Cup in 2019 brought woman's football to my notice. As an avid radio 4 listener, I noticed that women's football featured on quite a few programmes, including interviews with women who had been trying to play all their lives. In my childhood too, it would not have been even considered. However, it now appeared the game was becoming much more accessible. I heard about clubs offering recreational football for women of any and all abilities.
As someone who values fitness I decided it would be good to try something new, so why not football? I was able to find a local club running a 'Find Your Feet' evening and after a chat with an extremely encouraging coach, decided to give it a go. At this point I had never kicked a football in my life! Added to this, I knew I would probably be the oldest one there.
Anyway, I couldn't have been greeted by a more lovely, kind, encouraging group. My complete lack of skill was completely ignored in favour of compliments whenever I stopped or kicked the ball. My heart was in my mouth the whole time I was playing, but week by week I got just a bit better. Unfortunately, the COVID lockdown interrupted us for months on end, but we all kept in touch and even did some regular online exercises.
What inspires me to keep going is both the level of fitness I am achieving and the sheer fun we have at 'training' sessions. It's also great for mental health as the buzz I come home with is a real tonic for the low feelings I get from time to time. I would encourage any woman to give it a go, regardless of age or ability. If I can do it, anyone can!
As an added bonus, I have developed an interest and joy in watching live women's football. I follow Saints FC Women because their defender Caitlin Morris has always been a supportive, kind and caring coach to us. It's really exciting to be so close to seeing a high level of football when they play at Totton FC. However, it was a recent FA Cup match at St Mary's that gave me the sheer thrill of following a team with so many other supporters.
I am very excited about the Euro's coming to Southampton and the chance to be part of something so big in women's football. I have already been following international matches on the TV to get to know the teams. Keeping everything crossed for the Lionesses as I also have a ticket for the final at Wembley!
My football journey continues as I am committed to weekly sessions and also the FYF tournaments that are being run once a month. Abilities vary, but there is a real sense of friendly competition without any pressure. Football for women certainly is now fully accessible and also great fun.