From Hysterical Fernando Torres Girl To Occasional Football Freakout Woman

This is a story of my transition into womanhood which, as we know in part thanks to Britney Spears and our own experiences, can be quite confusing, and it’s easy to feel ‘caught in the middle’.

I grew up as a football fan. My formative years, my teenage years, were strongly influenced by the identity of being a football fan, and it has brought me so much, but there’s also so much that I know now, that I wish I knew back then. For example, the number of times I compromised myself because I didn’t know better, because I wanted to fit in and be ‘one of the guys’, and I thought that being told that ‘you’re not like other girls’ was a good thing (ugh). Thankfully now I know better, through experience and meeting wise people I’ve realised that I want to be JUST like other girls because we are fantastic, and the term was coined in an attempt to alienate women from each other, as we’re too powerful together. I’ve learned that I’m allowed to take up space, I’m allowed to let my female self flourish also in an inherently male space, without having to conform to masculine ways. I don’t need to adopt an exterior that makes me pass as a “valid” football fan but instead, I can be the flawed, bad football fan that I am.

Everything that I knew about what it means being a girl, becoming a woman, I learned through the lens of football fandom

But all of these lessons came with a price. Everything that I knew about what it means being a girl, becoming a woman, I learned through the lens of football fandom, and occupying these male spaces on a daily basis … it was exhausting. Beautiful, but exhausting. There were so many times I felt alone, ruthlessly alone. As I’m sure most women can sign on, being a female football fan is difficult, as we encounter so many issues men simply don’t understand – I wrote about some of them here.

Emma with Torres shirt on
So proud over my first shirt

There was one man that introduced me to the world of fandom and came to define those years. This man is Fernando Torres. As I was entering my teenage years, I had Torres there accompanying me. From buying my first football top (his Spain shirt, on a trip to Greece) and plastering my room with posters of his face, the topic of Torres also acted as a great bonding topic for two shy and alone football fangirls, equipping me with a life-long friend. I had my first kiss at a football tournament I was playing abroad. I had Torres’ name on my graduation hat. Being a football fan gave me an identity, something that I, like most young people, was desperate for.

But he was actually not the one that introduced me to methodically follow football on an international club level, that was the making of Rafael Van der Vaart and that, my dear friends, is why I’m not a Liverpool or a Chelsea fan, but ended up supporting a fantastic club called Tottenham Hotspur (I definitely feel like it was meant to be).

Tottenham cap on the ready!
Reppin’ Tottenham in Madrid

You could say that Van der Vaart took over from Torres, who in many ways was a girl’s mega-crush whereas VDV brought me a level deeper. He wooed me with his fantastic technique, passion and endless grit at the World Cup 2010 and afterwards left me wanting more, so I started following his progress in his new team, and I fell hopelessly in love with Tottenham, their style of play (Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Van der Vaart all together, I mean …) and the history of the club, and as VDV left the club, going back to his old club Hamburg SV, I followed. I started watching Bundesliga and HSV on a more regular basis, admiring the special style of play in the German top league. This ultimately led to me moving to Germany a month after finishing high school, fully immersing myself in German football and culture. Two and a half years later, as it was time for me to break toxic routes, an opportunity opened up for me in Madrid and coincidentally it was (allegedly) Torres’ last season in Atletico Madrid.

This led to me packing my bags and heading to Spain without a second thought, as it was an amazing opportunity to get to see him play on home soil, at the club that he loves the most. By now I was, although still finding myself, more comfortable in who I was, and my extreme, hysterical fangirl-self only broke out occasionally, like the time that I got to actually be face to face with him, only centimetres separating us, and we actually exchanged words! And he signed my shirt! It was the ultimate fangirl moment.

Fernando Torres signed shirt
Don’t know if you can tell that I was happy here?

In one sense my Torres-fandom came full circle the moment our eyes met. By this time I had been in a few mixed zones and already had my ‘omg-footballers-are-actually-normal-deadly-people’ moment, but it was something different locking eyes with my first ever footballing hero. It solidified a moment in time in which, looking back, something shifted in me, and I knew it was time to do something about my dreams. It was like a chain reaction; as one dream came true (me meeting Torres), my other dreams wanted to be fulfilled as well and as a result of that, things started to move slowly but surely.

When Lucas Moura scored that vital winner in the 96th minute I literally peed myself I was screaming so hard

I’m no longer hysterical over Torres (only when he posts nice things on Instagram), and I don’t sit and sob in the sofa after Tottenham has lost a Premier League game (yes, there’s actual footage of this) but there are undoubtedly moments when those strong feelings still overwhelm me and have to come out somehow. The second leg of the semifinal between Ajax – Tottenham was certainly one of those times. When Lucas Moura scored that vital winner in the 96th minute I literally peed myself I was screaming so hard, and the redness in my face was at a dangerously high level. But none of that mattered because my team were going through to the Champions League final for the first time! In Madrid, on June 1st another circle will close, as I’ve been blessed to see my team work so hard throughout the season and fulfil every Spurs fan’s dream, and I’ll be watching, ready to freak out no matter how it goes and continue to chase those dreams.

WC Countdown: Group E – Netherlands

We are now on the last team in the second to last group in the World Cup Countdown, and the tournament is only a few weeks away. Let’s take a look at the Netherlands!

The Netherlands, also called the Oranje Leeuwinnen (the Orange Lionesses), come into this tournament grasping onto one of the last straws, having had to qualify for the last spot. The Euro winners, who claimed the title on home soil in 2017, have only qualified for one World Cup before and that was Canada 2015, where they didn’t get further than the round of 16. But this time around they will come in with some confidence, having beaten several tough teams to get to that last sweet qualification spot, and surely the magic of their Euros win still linger over them. They played Northern Ireland twice, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia and Norway, winning every game but the one against the Scandinavians, which was enough to place them only second in the group, after Norway who qualified directly. This meant they had to qualify for that last spot, playing both Denmark and Switzerland over two legs, winning both games 4-1 on aggregate.

When looking at the Leeuwinnen squad, there is one star that shines very bright indeed. Lieke Martens, the midfielder/forward who is one of the best female footballers in the world, has been the one leading her team through the qualification process. With her dribbling skills and her intelligent plays, she contributes a lot on the field and not just in terms of goals. She was a vital cog in the team that won the 2017 Euros and she was voted The Best FIFA Women’s Player 2017. We also have an up and coming star that just doesn’t seem to be able to stop scoring. The young but already oh-so-mature Vivianne Miedema scored seven goals in the nine games she represented the Netherlands in on their qualification journey, and in England, where she represents Arsenal in the WSL (Women’s Super League), she was the top scorer of the season with 22 goals in 20 games. Talk about lethal!

Danielle Van De Donk, a teammate with Miedema in Arsenal, will also be an integral presence in the team, as she can contribute with vital goals as well as set her teammates up thanks to her creativity on the pitch. Shanice Van Der Sanden, Lineth Beerensteyn and Sherida Spitse are other important influences contributing with goals.

Defender Kika van Es spoke to FIFA about the importance of the Euros win and what an impact it’s had on the team in terms of expectations, and the perception of women’s football in the Netherlands.

“We want to be underdogs and we are telling everybody that because this is only our second World Cup.

“The World Cup is so different to the EUROs, being world champions will be very difficult, so we see ourselves as underdogs, which is better for us,” she said.

“Before the EUROs, nobody knew who we were, and then a month later it was crazy.

“Little kids can now dream of being a professional and it’s now easier to play football with other girls. We also showed parents that football is also for girls, not only for boys.

“For us, we think it’s good that we are playing in the north of France, so a lot of Dutch fans can come and support us. I think it is going to be a great World Cup and a great year,” she continued.

Sarina Wiegman
Head coach Wiegman, source

Head coach Sarina Wiegman is one of the reasons for the team’s huge success, and she’s had a massive impact on the team since she arrived in January 2017. With only a few months to go until the Euros kicking off on home soil and after having been an assistant coach and interim coach to the national side during several years, it was finally her time at the helm, and she did a fantastic job leading the team to victory at the Euros, raising the confidence and the attitude of the team and encouraging them to play a more attacking style of football, which took well amongst the group of players and they gave back to their coach by playing very attractive and winning football.

The team seems to have a strong and successful identity with the 4-3-3 formation, allowing their creativity to flood on the wings and build from a strong defensive foundation.

The Leuuwinnen has had a few games leading up to the tournament. They won against South Africa 2-1 back in January, they featured in the Algarve Cup where they lost against Spain and Poland, and drew 1-1 with China, winning on penalties. They’ve also played Mexico and Chile in two friendlies, winning 2-0 and 7-0, and are going up against Australia in a send-off match before the tournament begins in France, that game being played on the 1st of June, kick off 18:15.

That’s a wrap on our Orange Lionesses, who will go up against some tough competition in group E. How do you think that they will do? Let us know in the comment section!

WC Countdown: Group E – New Zealand

We head deeper into group E and next up is New Zealand.

The Football Ferns, which is the nickname of the island’s beloved team, will head to their fifth World Cup, having qualified for their first back in 1991 for the inaugural cup in China. It would then be a 14-year long wait until they qualified for their next one, the 2007 edition, and they’ve qualified for all the others since, although never being able to make it out of the group stages. The road to France was quite a straightforward one for the Ferns, as they went through the qualification with 42 goals scored and 0 conceded in their five games. They went up against  Tonga, Cook Island, Fiji and New Caledonia, winning with numbers like 11-0 and 8-0 in the OFC Women’s Nations Cup.

Ali Riley is one of the names to look out for in the squad, as the vastly experienced fullback is looking to add another World Cup to her belt, having already played in three World Cups and three Olympics. The team captain is a strong presence at the back, and with her knowledge of big tournaments, she’ll be a huge asset. This is quite the comeback squad that coach Tom Sermanni will bring to France. Striker Hannah Wilkinson suffered a serious ACL-injury back in October, but thanks to her grit and determination she has managed to work her way back to match-fitness and is one of the 23 players named in the squad going to the World Cup.

hannah wilkinson
Wilkinson representing the Ferns, source

“I am so honoured to be named in this squad. It was an amazing feeling last week when I got the call from Tom. I am also really proud of myself because I know that I have worked really hard to get back,” she said.

“The first thing I thought about when the injury happened was France. That my World Cup dream was over. But my mentality from the get-go was to focus and work hard every day. I had doubt coming from all areas so that was a real test to listen to my inner self and my inner belief. Month after month I saw the progress. Suddenly we hit five months and I was looking pretty good to come back. There have been a lot of important lessons and it has been quite a journey,” she continued.

Another forward who has made it into the team is Emma Kete, who got the spot ahead of other strikers despite only having her first appearance for the Ferns since 2015 earlier this year.

“Emma’s comeback is a great lesson in maturity and how you can really play your way back in. If you are really focused, work hard and look to do the right things, you have got an opportunity. She has come back into the fold after being away from the team for a long time, but she has shown her intent to be a part of this squad,” coach Sermanni said of the forward.

Another important player to have on the team is defender Abby Erceg, a real veteran who has more than 100 senior appearances for the Ferns and who came out of retirement for a second time in January, only to be selected for the team for a fourth World Cup.

The Scottish coach Sermanni has a lot of experience in the women’s game, and this will be his fourth World Cup, having started his illustrious career with Australia back in 1995. He rejoined the Matildas to lead them to the quarterfinals in 2007 and 2011, took over the United States women’s national team for a year, was amongst the staff for the Canadian women’s national team during the World Cup 2015, then Orlando Pride for two years, before returning to international duty in October 2018 with the Ferns.

The Scot is a welcome refresher in the team after the previous coach Andreas Heraf caused a lot of drama. The Austrian coach spoke after the team lost 2-0 to Japan back in June 2018, saying that New Zealand “will never have (the) quality to compete” with the likes of Japan, which caused a lot of upset and lead to serious allegations emerging about the coach. The players association sent the NZF a letter voicing concerns about the coach, and 13 players had signed the letter saying they did not want to work under him anymore, as the coach allegedly upheld a ‘culture of intimidation’ and Ercag, the retired player who returned, described him as ‘delusional’.

Sermanni seems to change in between formations, depending on what kind of team they’re meeting, and against the likes of Norway and Australia, where he seemed to feel the need to be more defensively rigid, they played a 5-3-2, and they’ve also played the likes of 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-4-1.

New Zealand participated in the Cup of Nations, which is a friendlies tournament consisting of four teams – Australia, Argentina, South Korea and the Ferns themselves, who suffered losses to the Matildas and South Korea but beat Argentina 2-0. They also played a friendly against Norway, which they won 1-0 and is considered a huge win for the side. New Zealand is going to play some more last minute friendlies before the World Cup, going up against the US on the 17th of May, England on the 1st of June and Wales on the 4th of June, before they kick off their World Cup campaign on the 11th.

That’s a wrap on the New Zealand team, and this inspirational group of athletes is surely one to keep an eye out for. But will they be able to make it past their group that contains tough opponents like Canada and Cameroon? Let us know what you think in the comment section below!

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.

WC Countdown: Group E – Cameroon

After Canada in group E, our second team out is Cameroon.

The Indomitable Lionesses as they are called are returning to the world stage after their first World Cup endeavour back in 2015, where they beat Ecuador and Switzerland and lost to Japan in the group stages. They were allowed to advance to the last 16, where they were kicked out by China. This time around they’re up to similar tough opponents in their group, facing Canada, Netherlands and New Zealand.

Cameroon’s road to qualification in the Africa Women Cup of Nation was quite straightforward. They flew through the group stages, breezing by Mali and Algeria and drawing with Ghana before being halted on their way by Nigeria, who have stood in their way in the two previous Cup of Nation editions. The game ended 0-0 and had to go to penalties, where Nigeria won. Cameroon then had to go up against Mali again for the third place spot and the last qualification spot, which they claimed with a 4-2 victory.

Gabrielle Onguene is one of the big names in the team. She showed what she’s made of at the 2015 World Cup and with a great performance, she managed to help her team through to the last 16. The attacking midfielder has grown into a top name in African football and contributed two goals on their road to qualification. Christine Manie is another name to remember. She has been the one sending the team to the World Cup on both of the occasions that they’ve qualified, thanks to crucial goals scored in overtime, against the Ivory Coast back in 2014 and then again against Mali in 2018. She also contributed Cameroon’s only goal in their 1-1 draw with Ghana which, for a defender is pretty good.

Cameroon women's national team
The lionesses in a huddle. Source

Alain Djeumfa coaches the senior side, after taking over from Joseph Ndoko. Djeumfa, former fitness coach in the team, had to step in as manager in January 2019, after Ndoko had already led the team through the qualifying stages. It is not the first team that Djeumfa has coached, as he’s been with several top-flight clubs before, and on top of that, he’ll not be alone in France, as he’ll be assisted by the former Cameroon captain Bernadette Anong.

Djeumfa has not really had much time to implement his own playing style on the team just yet, and it does not get easier as the Cameroon football association, Fecafoot, have difficulties prioritising and setting up friendlies for the Lionesses to give them enough time to prepare ahead of the World Cup.

“The girls haven’t been consistent in their preparation. Training should’ve started a long time ago, not now. There should’ve been more friendlies. Look at Nigeria and South Africa, they have played several international matches and now both sides are in the Cyprus Cup. We have to do better.

“The Lionesses have a good coach in Alain Djeumfa but things aren’t made easy for him. The women’s league hasn’t started and it’s difficult for him to scout for players.

“We have to be pragmatic. I fear with such poor preparation we may have a poor output in France,” Victorine Fomum, former footballer turned analyst, said to BBC Sport.

After a winter and early spring without many signs of friendlies, the Lionesses managed to get to China and play the inaugural Wuhan International Tournament. The four teams in the tournament were China, who won, Cameroon, who finished runners up, Croatia and Russia. Cameroon ended up playing one game against Croatia, which they won, that in turn advanced them to the final against China, which was a 1-0 loss.

That’s a bit on Cameroon! Going into their second World Cup, they’ll be looking to better their results of ending up in the last 16. Can they make it? Let us know in the comment section below.

WC Countdown: Group E – Canada

Onto the second to last group and first up in group E is Canada.

Canada has worked their way onto the international stage and slowly but surely gained recognition as a tough team to beat. They lost out on the third place to the USA at the World Cup 2003 and made it to the quarter-finals of their first Olympic women’s football tournament in 2008. They’ve won bronze at the Olympics twice, in 2012 and 2016, and they hosted the World Cup back in 2015, getting kicked out in the quarter-final against England. Canada started off the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, the qualification tournament to the World Cup, by beating Jamaica 2-0. They then went on to beat Cuba 12-0, Costa Rica 3-1 and Panama 7-0, before coming up against the hosts and world champions USA, to whom they lost 0-2.

The biggest name in the Canadian team is without a doubt Cristine Sinclair, who has made a huge mark on the team and has ensured that she will always be remembered fondly by the Canadians. The current captain of the side is the top scorer for her country (of all time!), who also has the most assists and most caps of any Canadian player. The forward who is now 35 years old is still in her prime, scoring four goals in five games throughout the qualification tournament, and she scored a wonderful hattrick for her club in a 4-4 thriller just the other day. This will be the fifth World Cup that she takes part in. Other players that were on a good scoring streak during the qualification process were Adriana Leon, who scored a whopping six goals in the four games she took part in. 17-year-old Jordyn Huitema scored another four goals in three games, and Nichelle Prince contributed with three goals in four games. Stephanie Labbe is the experienced goalkeeper but 23-year-old Kailen Sheridan got some time between the sticks in the qualification process and is an exciting prospect.

Canada women's soccer team
Fans together with their soccer team. Source.

Kenneth Heiner-Møller is the head coach for the Canadian side and the Danish coach has been with the team since 2015 when he was the assistant coach, before becoming head coach in 2018. He led the Danish women’s national football team to the 2007 World Cup in China, where he and his players accused the Chinese team, whom they were going up against, of harassment as well as covert surveillance. The Swedish coaching team, Marika Domanski-Lyfors and Pia Sundhage, did not know anything about it and Heiner-Møller exonerated them but refused to shake hands after the game. With the Canadian team, he’s not had a lot of time to achieve things just yet, but he got them to the World Cup 2019.

Møller has chosen to go with a few different formations, not being afraid to rotate and continuously changing things up, which can be seen as a healthy sign for a developing squad. The main two formations that the Danish coach has chosen to play with are the 4-2-3-1 and 3-1-4-2, sometimes switching it up with a 4-3-3.

The Canadian side has played a few games during the spring, going to Portugal for the Algarve Cup where they came up against a few strong sides. They drew 0-0 with Iceland, they earned a hard-fought win over Scotland 1-0 and in the third place match between Canada and Sweden, the North American side came out the stronger one after winning on penalties.

That’s some information about Canada, one of the strong teams in group E. Do you believe they will make it out of their group? Let us know below in the comment section!

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.