Survival Guide: When Your Partner Is Not Into Football

My mother always asked me what I would do if I fell in love with someone who was not interested in football. I always waved her off, “pfft, it’s not possible”, yet here we are 10 years later and I’ve been happily coupled up with my non-football-fan for three years now. It’s funny how that works sometimes, as I’m sure I was not the only football-mad teenager who saw myself in a relationship looking a bit like this, having worshipped the likes of Bend It Like Beckham (watched on the plane the other week and cried like a baby, it’s still such a good movie) and She’s The Man. Unfortunately, all the examples used are picturing heterosexual romantic relationships which is far from actual reality, but that’s what was available in the 2000s.

There are both positives and negatives when it comes to the partner (or another close person in your life, like a best friend) not sharing your biggest passion and, for some of us, work. In the list below you can find a wee potpourri of different advice that can be good to keep close on days when you feel misunderstood or things are getting messed up and you’re frustrated – “uuugh, they should’ve known not to book XYZ for the same night as that important game.” We’ve all been there, and sometimes it can be hard to remember that not everyone’s world revolves around game days, silly season and everything in between that you choose to include in your football fandom.

  • Look at it from the bright side: you are relieved of any bickering with your significant other about which team is the best, instead, you can just force your team upon them.
  • Take charge of all holiday booking from now on. Otherwise, you might end up with catastrophes like your other half having booked your flight to Barcelona on the NIGHT OF THE MEN’S WORLD CUP FINAL.
Watching the World Cup final 2018 at the airport
We managed quite a sweet set-up after all …
  • In fact, this gives you another upper hand, as you can sneakily suggest vacation places that coincide with a big game/stadium you want to visit …
  • To make life easier, you should keep a shared calendar, or print out a match schedule that will cover all of the must-see games for the next few months. That way they can’t book in dinners/pub rounds/trips if they haven’t consulted the schedule – and if they still do, it is actually their fault.
  • Communication is key, a cornerstone in any relationship but still worth mentioning, as sometimes it’s easy to forget about something as simple as putting words to your feelings. Let them in on what your feeling after that player transferred to the rival club or your team suffered a really terrible loss. Your person has passions too and can understand what it feels like to really care about something. Which leads us onto the next point …
  • Find their football-equivalent. For example, my partner plays the guitar and performs occasionally, and guess who’s always on the first row? Just because there’s a whole culture around football, and it tends to take up a lot of space/interest, doesn’t mean that people cannot be equally passionate about other things. This is important to remember, and if you want your partner to occasionally engage with/understand your football fandom, you need to show them the same courtesy regarding what they’re really into.
  • It’s easier to engage people during the World Cups, Euros and Copa America, simply because a lot more people find it more tangible to relate to a country rather than a club.
Strike a pose!
For carnival, we were dressed as the qualifying game between Sweden – Italy
  • Write a little guideline book that summarises things such as rules, a short history of the game, which team to cheer for (yours, obviously) as a way to invite them in. In many cases the people who claim that they “don’t get it” are not really disinterested, it’s just that they have never been allowed a “safe” entryway into the game (for example an environment where they feel safe to ask questions without fear of being ridiculed #ReleaseYourInnerBadFootballFan)
  • Remember – it’s all about balance. It can actually be very healthy to be with someone that is not invested in football, as they can offer much-needed switch-off time, something that is vital in today’s ever-faster spinning world. As frustrating as it can be when others can be all in and you’re feeling I want to as well, it many times also makes you really good at appreciating everything, and it gives you different perspectives.
Me and my boyfriend celebrating Tottenham's Champions League win over Ajax
In the midst of realising what just happened and celebrating the hardest I ever have

I hope that this wee survival guide is able to offer you some perspective on sharing life together with someone that is not necessarily that into football. In fact, I would go against my younger self, who couldn’t believe that there was anything other than a day-to-day life with someone who’s as mad about football like me, and say that life is BETTER together with someone that is not a mad hatter about people kicking a ball around. It allows me a place and a pair of arms to come home to, that is not going to ask me about how the London derby went.

Image featured at the top is by Moazzam Brohi.

List: Female Managers at the World Cup 2019

We have a World Cup just around the corner and right now the teams are deep in preparations. The players are getting ready mentally and physically for the biggest tournament in football, and the coaching team is in the closing stages of figuring out the squad that they will bring to France – which players will be allowed to go and who will have to stay home.

Female managers at the World Cup 2019The manager is the person that has the most influence when it comes down to the squad, even as they are surrounded by assistant coaches, attacking coaches, goalkeeper coaches and so on. It is the manager that decides what formation they want to play, who will play in what position in order to get the best out of everyone, and what tactics they will use – quite a powerful position in other words. And more often than not, this position is inherited by a man. Times have slowly changed and there are by now quite a few recognised female managers who have gone on to do great things, but there are still so few of them. Not to mention the fact that in the men’s game it is still (more or less) unheard of to have a female manager managing a professional men’s team. (Actually, two of the women on this list have managed professional men’s team but they are extremely rare).

I find it very important to put focus on the women in the game, and the ones on the sideline are no less important. To no one’s surprise, only 37,5% of the managers that will be present at the World Cup this summer are women – a mere nine out of 24 managers. All the more important to get to know them a bit better! So here is a list of the female managers that will do their best to lead their team to success in France this summer:

Corinne Diacre – France

The French coach, who will do her best to guide her team to success on home soil, is a former defender for ASJ Soyaux who also represented France internationally. Diacre became the first woman to coach a professional men’s football team in a competitive game in France back in 2014 when she took over Clemont Foot.

Martina Voss-Tecklenburg – Germany

Voss-Tecklenburg, who coaches her native Germany, is one of the biggest names amongst German female footballers, having won seven national titles and six DFB trophies as a midfielder and striker for club and country during her playing days. As a manager, she has previously coached FCR 2001 Duisburg, FF USV Jena and Switzerland women’s national team, before taking over Germany in 2019, notably after they had already qualified.

Desiree Ellis – South Africa

Desiree Ellis head coach South Africa women's national team
Desiree Ellis, source

Ellis has a long playing career behind her, retiring from the game at the age of 38. The midfielder played for Spurs Ladies for 11 years and played over 300 games for the side, and they ended up being the first club that she managed, staying with the London team for 10 years. Then in 2016 she took over the South Africa women’s national team, which she was one of the founding members of. Ellis played in the team’s first ever international match, and in her 32 caps for South Africa, she won 23 of those games, drew two and only lost seven.

Milena Bertolini – Italy

Bertolini is a huge name in Italy who has done a lot for football in Italy. The former defender played for several Italian teams, amongst them Reggiana, Bologna, Modena and Pisa, before then going into the coaching side of things. She ended up going back to her beloved Reggiana, where she stayed for seven seasons, before taking over Brescia for five years, until the national team called in 2017. Bertolini is the only female coach, together with Carolina Morace, that has the UEFA Pro license which allows her to coach a professional men’s team, a step she has yet to take.

Shelley Kerr – Scotland

Michelle, better known as “Shelley” Kerr is a former centre back who captained her native Scotland and played in clubs such as Kilmarnock, Doncaster Rovers Belles and Hibs, racking up every domestic honour that Scotland has to offer, and she also featured in the UEFA Women’s Cup. She went on to become a manager, winning the Continental Cup and FA Women’s Cup double with Arsenal in 2013. She also attained the UEFA pro license and became the first female coach to manage a professional men’s team when she took over Stirling University F.C.

Asako Takakura-Takemoto – Japan

During her active playing years, Takakura-Takemoto was an energetic and decorated midfielder, winning the L.League four years in a row with Yomiuri Beleza, getting selected as MVP two years in a row and getting selected in the ‘best eleven’ seven times. When she was 16 she debuted for the Japanese national team, featuring at World Cups and the Olympics. Her coaching career took off as she managed the Japan U-17 team, then the U20 and then the senior side.

Sarina Wiegman – The Netherlands

Wiegman started her playing career as a central midfielder but ended up drifting into the role of defender, spending her playing days in Ter Leede and was the first Dutch footballer to gain 100 caps for her country. Her managerial career began in the same club she represented as a player, Ter Leede, and from there she went on to have a few assistant and interim positions in the Netherlands Women’s national team until she finally got to take over the senior side as manager. To prove that the federation was right to entrust her with this position, she went on to guide the team to win the UEFA Women’s Euro 2017 on home soil.

Jill Ellis – USA

Jill Ellis head coach usa women's national team
Jill Ellis, source

Ellis, who is originally from England, did not play any organised football until her family moved to the US in 1981, as organised football did not exist for girls in the UK in the 1970s, and she went on to feature as a forward for William & Mary, but it was coaching that grasped her heart. She started out as an assistant coach for several universities, before going on to lead UCLA to eight NCAA Final Fours and won six straight Pacific-10 Conference titles. She went on to coach the US national U-20 and U-21 teams, as well as being an assistant coach and stepping in as interim coach for the senior side on several occasions, before becoming the head coach of the team in 2014. Ellis guided her team to glory as they won the 2015 World Cup in Canada.

Nuengruethai Sathongwien – Thailand

Sathongwien was the first woman in charge of the national team, and became the first coach to lead a Thailand national team, men or women, to a World Cup as her team qualified for the 2015 Canada edition, despite receiving a lot less funding than the men’s team. She had to step down from her post in less than three months, as her team failed to get any further than the second round in the qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics. But in 2017 she returned to her position and has once again managed to get Thailand to a World Cup.

That’s an account of the nine female managers that will go to the World Cup 2019. What seems to be a common denominator amongst all of these women is the level of success they’ve had. They’re all strong and fierce, breaking barriers and being trailblazers, paving the way for future generations to come. By being visible on the big stage, these women show young girls that they can aspire to one day be the ones, on the pitch and on the sideline, guiding their team to glory.

Five Lessons Goalkeeping Taught Me As a Female Football Fan

The first time I had to go in goals as an adult was at a futsal tournament with my university team and I was too hungover to run, so after 20 minutes I told my coach that I needed to go in goals or I would not make it. Which ended up being quite the successful initiative, and as my new team were looking for a goalkeeper I volunteered. One year into this journey I am loving my new position and enjoying myself thoroughly.

Along the way, I have evolved so much, obviously as a player, going from playing as a left wing for the better part of a decade to going in between the sticks, but also as a person and a female football fan. I was opened up to a whole new perspective, being positioned at the end of the pitch, and it forced me to view the game and my role in it in a totally different way. That, in turn, opened up to new views on my life, my fandom and my role in it, as well as how I want to practice it going forward.

The lessons that I’ve taken from goalkeeping are applicable in the game as well as in life:

1. Don’t Be Afraid

Fear limits you! This is the first rule, which is very applicable to the goalkeeper life (I mean, you are voluntarily stepping in as the last person between the striker and the goal) but it’s also a fundamental realisation that has huge impact on your life. I used to be so afraid; afraid of doing anything wrong, being wrong, fucking up – but what you have to realise is this: as a goalkeeper you are going to make mistakes and let in goals. Fact is, you’ll probably let in more goals than you keep out, and you have to be okay with that, it’s just part of it and you’ll learn from every mistake in order to be able to keep more goals out.

Same goes for life, where many people stay in their comfort zones and rarely makes mistakes. It’s comfortable but that’s not where the magic happens. What if I’d been too afraid to devote myself to Tottenham, my football team, because I was put off by the scrutiny present in the football community?

2. Be Demanding

As the person furthest back on the pitch, you have a unique view that no one else as, and you have to use that to help your team and guide your defence, who do not have the same advantage as you. That means that sometimes you will have to be very demanding and steer them to where you need them to be, which in turn means that you have to trust yourself to have the view and the skills necessary for it.

Also in life, you have to take command of your own ship and demand more of yourself, trusting yourself to know what is best for you. That includes knowing that you belong in a space (for example, a pub or a football stadium) even when the people around you make you feel otherwise.

3. Ask For It

This one is vital. In order to get anything you want – that promotion at work, the cute person you’ve been eyeing for a while, or the ball in the game, you’re gonna have to ask for it. In order to receive the ball in a position where you know that you can do something with it, where you set the tone, you’re going to have to ask your teammates to pass it to you. That way you take charge of the game, and the same rules apply to anything that you want – no one is just going to hand it to you. It’s yours for the taking!

4. Take Up Space

If you take up more physical space in the goal, the goal shrinks and significantly minimises the target for the striker trying to score on you. It makes a lot of sense when you look at it from the striker’s point of view, but when you’re in that goal it can feel counterintuitive to charge out towards a player that is running towards you full speed with the ball, but that’s what you have to do. Same in life, it can really scary, but it’s difficult to give opportunities to people that you do not know are there because they’re not taking up any space.

Note, it’s not just about taking up the space – you have to believe that you’re allowed to actually take up the space, and that you’re not just there because of luck or because someone wanted to be kind to you. The notion of being allowed to take up space is a belief that is hard for women, in my experience. I certainly struggle with it a lot. As women, we’re taught, from a young age, that ‘girls sit down and obey’ whereas the boys are rowdy and taking up space. Well, it’s time to change that and as adults we can lead by example.#GetBig as Karen Bardsley always says.

5. Use Your Voice

Your defence won’t know what it is that you want or need from them if you do not tell them. It’s worth repeating: as the goalkeeper you have the most special view on the pitch. There will be times when you’ll come from behind and your defenders won’t see you and you’re all just so focused on clearing the ball that, without the communication, it’ll most likely turn into a big mess.

It is equally as important to use your voice in life because you have a unique take on life just like everyone else, and you have to learn to speak up, for others but most of all for yourself. Especially in my fandom this has been a useful tool to gain, as I’ve come to understand that few people are willing to speak up for female football fans, in general in the media, but also when you’re in the pub/at the stadium alone. And nowadays there are so many amazing female football collectives and fans emerging, and recommending people to follow them is a great use of the voice, for example.

Also, remember to be kind, to yourself and to others, it goes a long way. And don’t compare your chapter three to someone else’s chapter 20.

13 Things Female Football Fans Don’t Have To Do

This list aims to highlight the (often invisible) pressures that female football fans have on them, especially when out in male-dominated football contexts in public. I mean, I have lived in Sweden, Germany, Spain and the UK, all football-crazy countries, and in every single place I’ve been, I can attest to having had to go through all of the following when at the stadium or in a pub watching.

As a female football fan, I don’t have to …

1. Look a certain way

Under absolutely no circumstances do I have to fit into your narrow expectations of what a female football fan should look like – you only need to google “female football fans” to get the idea. My fandom is not there for you to have something to rest the eyes on. However, it is also totally fine if I want to wear my football shirt tight and wear makeup. I’m still not there to appeal to your male gaze.

2. Drink beer

Or any alcohol really. Or let me just walk off with my Martini in peace. The point is – just because beer is the (not so) original go-to choice for literally every single man seated in front of a football game, doesn’t mean that I have to have that. And no, you really don’t need to point it out.

IMG_1579

When I had just moved to Germany and supported my host-country as they won the (men’s) World Cup

 

3. Wear a football top

I might’ve come straight from work and not brought the shirt, or my favourite shirt might be in the wash. Or, frankly, I might not own one, maybe I can’t afford it. Regardless, having a football shirt is not a badge of honour that shows you that I “get it”, neither is it something that I wear for the sole purpose of showing you that I get it.

4. Know everything about the team

Just because I have declared myself a fan of a team, it doesn’t mean that I am caught up in the ins and outs of the club. Heck, I might’ve even missed that they’re playing today. Life happens and it’s not always easy to balance.

5. Accept you (man) popping up and starting to quiz me about the team

One more time for the people in the back: just because I have declared myself a fan of a team, it does not mean that I’m required to know everything there is to know about it. And it is absolutely not your place to feel free to start quizzing me about various historical moments of the club, having me prove to you that I know my stuff as if being a fan of the club required certain entry-level knowledge – only female fans mind.

6. Prove to you that I actually understand tactics (not to mention the offside rule …)

Furthermore, my knowledge of tactics (or lack thereof) is none of your business.

7. Be able to recount players from all the top leagues

It can be quite intimidating when the names start to hail down around you and you’re expected to keep up, only to fail miserably or feel like you’re constantly on your toes.

8. Explain why I love my team

The story is getting old by now, how I found my team and fell in love and the reasons behind it. If anything it feels like people (who am I kidding: men) need further justification from me on how on earth I managed to find a team that I like, and are you sure that it’s not because of that hot player?

9. Tell the story about how I got into football

Yes, I’m a woman who loves football. No, it was not my dad who got me into it. There are several entryways into the football world, I’m just saying that it doesn’t have to be a man that was the catalyst.

10. Talk to you at all really …

… even though I like football and have chosen to watch it in a pub or at the stadium. I know that I’ve chosen to watch this game out in public, however, that is not so that you can feel free to strike up a conversation with me, questioning my legitimacy as a football fan. Respect my boundaries.

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Getting to know the area in Glasgow

 

11. Sit quiet and accept the ref’s decision

Women are conditioned to sit back and be quiet and well-behaved, but those days are over and it’s time to claim that space, the rowdy, upset and passionate space that football fans find themselves in all too often.

12. Educate you about women’s football

Heck, why do I have to know anything about women’s football just because I’m a woman? Now, personally, I happen to like women’s football and I know many women that do, and to a certain extent I can understand where one would draw some logical parallels like women supporting women and that, but we’re all grown up in a society that is not supportive of women’s football and that has taught us that it’s far inferior to men’s football, this is not just a view of men. And it’s something that we just have to work on changing (with so many positive changes in the air right now!!!), but it drives me nuts sometimes when a woman is assumed to be an expert on women’s football based on the sole fact that she’s a woman interested in football.

13. Accommodate your uncomfortableness

Now, maybe you haven’t been around too many female football fans, which is fine. However, it’s not on me to make you feel better after an awkward encounter that ended in you making sexist remarks/assumptions and interrupting my football experience.

Can you relate to any of these points, and how did that make you feel? Share in the comment section below!