This post was originally meant to come up on Monday, but as anyone who follows me on Instagram might have noticed, I broke my thumb during football practice a week ago and had to have surgery on Tuesday. This has greatly decreased my ability to write and, to be honest, the first few days I’ve just been taking it easy and enjoyed being taken care of. But now I’m here! Arm in a cast but otherwise good.
This time I’ve been chatting with Kirsten Sinclair. She is the founder of Ladies Recreational Football, a club that gets together on Tuesday evenings (19:00-20:00) at Glasgow Green, where they play football and enjoy the company. They also organise other events, for example they’ll be hosting a 5 a side football tournament on June 9 with an event at the Women’s Library afterwards. For more information, check out their Facebook page! So make sure to save the date for a Saturday full of football and fun.
– How did the Ladies Recreational Football start?
Kirsten: Probably about 2009, I was in Edinburgh with a group of friends. We were just having a kick about in the park, it was coming up to winter and they said ‘oh, we’re just gonna have to wait now until spring’ and I said ‘well, that’s a shame. Why don’t we try and get like a sports centre’ but the trouble with that is, you wouldn’t get the same numbers every week. So, at the time, I was in touch with LGBT health and they had some funding, so I asked them if it was possible to set up a women’s recreational football group in Edinburgh, to begin with. So they gave us some funding, just to pay for a pitch for a couple of months, and then I applied towards for all. We managed to get a grant that kept it going. So that’s the Amazing Gracies in Edinburgh. I was with them for about three years and then I got the chance to go and work in Australia, so I left the Gracies.
But when I came back, I thought ‘I wonder if there’s something in Glasgow’ and I couldn’t find anything apart from United Glasgow and I thought that, I know they’ve got the drop in, it still seemed to be geared towards putting people towards a league side, and I thought ‘there’s maybe still a gap for people that just are a bit less confident’ so that was really the reason for setting up this recreational football. So in July [last year] I did a survey and people said yes, I must’ve had about 40 people saying that they would be up for it, and I just asked them where they would like to play. And that was it! So I booked it, promoted it like mad, and LEAP Sports were brilliant with the promotion as well as the Women’s library and the libraries, I just went around and did leaflets and a Facebook campaign. On the first night, we were really lucky because 14 folks came along, and it’s been going since! So we just gradually tried to, try the Thursday night, try Sundays, try to get friendlies, keep in touch with United Glasgow for any friendlies with them and tournaments. It has just been great, it’s a lovely group of women and it’s just a laugh, that’s the main thing about it. It takes the emphasis away from having any kind of competitive ability, it’s just about coming out and having a bit of fun. Then if you want you can come for a coffee or a pint after it.
– And you have walking football as well?
K: That’s right. Walking football I do in Edinburgh at the moment and I’ve been trying to get the numbers for it in Glasgow but without success. I just keep offering it and maybe more women will come. I’m doing a tournament on the 9th of June at Glasgow Green, with start 12pm, and again it’s just to try and get people along that might be thinking about walking football or ordinary football, and trying to give them a taste of them both, so maybe we can get a few more folks up for it.
It has just been great, it’s a lovely group of women and it’s just a laugh, that’s the main thing about it
K: That’s a really good question … because I used to love football when I was wee, and I was lucky having a brother, because I used to play with my brother. And we didn’t really have the opportunities for girls and women playing football at school and hardly any clubs. If you did join a club you had to make a commitment, and you had to be a certain level – and I just love playing! And I thought – remember that kick about in the park, it was the first time I’d had a kick about for years, and I just thought that there must be more that would enjoy that. I just loved it, and when the Grace’s took off and there was the chance to try it here in Glasgow I just thought ‘I’ll see’ and it’s just great playing it again. So I think it’s a bit of both it’s just loving playing football, and seeing folk coming out that are not very confident, and they’ve all got a talent. That’s the main thing about it.
– How has the response been?
K: There’s been a couple of comments about how it’s really really good, mental health-wise because, especially for people that might’ve had a rotten day at work, because they find it all absorbing, they can only concentrate for that hour on football and it’s enough to give them a break, from maybe a bad day at work. But it’s also, people have said, it’s been lovely to come out and have a game, have something in common with people straight away, and then gradually get to know them over the weeks, playing in a team. That’s been the good thing of the friendlies and the tournaments, just making friends and being on the social side.
– What kind of people is it that shows up to the practice?
K: All kinds! All ages, we’ve had Liz, that played tonight, her daughters came along, they were about 18 at the time. We’ve had another woman whose mum played! She’s about 65 years old and she had a brilliant game I saw. All ages, we see, there’s a bunch of regulars but it’s good because you get new faces too and it’s lovely to see new folks coming along. United Glasgow have been great with the drop in because I think some folks have been coming from there when they can. It’s just great if we can give people the opportunity to come and play football, that’s really good.
– What’s the atmosphere like?
K: I would say it’s really fun, because Sirri from LEAP Sports came to do an interview too and just to take some film footage, and while she was doing it, she said ‘you are the only pitch where people are just laughing!’. She could hear the guys around the boot and they were all quite serious, but she said it’s really nice just seeing people just killing themselves laughing, so it’s good.
– Do you feel that it fills a need for the people showing up?
K: Yeah, I think it’s important for me to have an inclusive, friendly environment. For somebody brave enough to come along for the first time, many people would take it for granted, that they would just do that, they would show up and they would go. For other people I think it’s quite a tough thing to do, so it was really important from the word go just to make them feel welcome and hopefully that’s what the club does. If you identify as a woman, you’re more than welcome to come along whenever you can.
– What does football give you?
K: I think I’d have to say a big smile, because every time I come along and I may be tired or fed up, I always come away smiling, feeling a bit better than when I started. That’s the social side, definitely.