So here’s a good pub quiz question for you. Who was the last English player to sign for Barcelona? As for the answer – we’ll come back to that shortly.
There’s a myriad of reasons why the teen and I signed up as Albion season ticket holders. Apart from both loving football, it’s one of the few forms of entertainment that we agree on. His favoured form of relaxation usually includes the X-Box while a trip to Tate Modern – my choice obviously – he considers to be the modern equivalent of medieval torture.
After much negotiation we can occasionally agree on a cinema outing but he’s never forgiven me for taking (or was it dragging) him to see Macbeth only to find out later that King Lear was the Shakespeare text for GCSE that year.
And clearly we’re not the only ones enjoying football at the same time as doing a bit of parent/teen bonding, there’s plenty of us at the Amex with the usual combination being father/son. But there are the exceptions where daughters can be found singing (often more tunefully), shouting and just as passionate about football as the boys around them.
Well maybe that’s not so surprising, after all the Lionesses gave us much to celebrate this Summer and with Hope Powell recently appointed manager of our own Albion women, looking forward we should be optimistic about success nearer to home. What doesn’t change though is that it’s still a struggle to keep girls actively involved in any sport, not just football, much past the age of thirteen. So what can we do about it?
Claire Johnson is a full time PE teacher at Cardinal Newman and is doing her bit to change this as she runs the girls football academy, often after the regular school day has finished, for around sixty students. A former West Ham and Albion player, she now plays for Lewes FC as a semi-pro and in a mixed gender six a side team once a week just for fun.
To me, this is interesting on a number of levels because a) Lewes FC were the first football club to award equal pay deals to both their men’s and women’s teams, b) as she’s over eighteen a six a side social is the only mixed team Claire can play in and c) I wondered if she could throw any light on how we keep our girls onside. So we caught up for a chat and fascinating it was, though too lengthy to share in full, here’s the gist of what we talked about.
Throughout Primary school kids take part in mixed PE classes but at the age of eleven with the move to Secondary school that all changes. From here on classes are based on gender as are some of the sports offered; think about it, is there a boys’ netball teams or girls’ rugby team in your kid’s school? And within two years too many girls are disengaging from sport.
Which is a shame because at last there is greater opportunity to get involved in football which so many are obviously passionate about as the stands at the Amex bear witness. Secondary schools like Cardinal Newman now affiliate themselves to girls’ football academies, run by the Albion and Lewes FC among others, and with it enjoy coaching they could not otherwise access and a wider network of other girls’ teams to play against.
In recent years much has been written about healthy lifestyles, we all know that exercise plays a huge part in that. But it goes way beyond the physical benefits, there’s all those happy hormones that kick in with exercise – and let’s be honest there’s times when our teens could do with a few of those.
Then of course there’s the boost to self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect that comes with being an accepted part of a team or a community. ‘Selfies’ of a different kind and a welcome antidote to the horror statistics we hear about self-harming. Did you know that thirteen to sixteen year olds girls are three times more likely to self-harm than their male peers? So how do we raise the aspirations – sporting or otherwise – of our girls?
Let’s go back to our pub quiz. Who was the last English player to sign for Barcelona? If you answered Gary Lineker you have just missed out on the chance to become the Pub Quiz champions of 2017. The answer is Toni Duggan, the former Man City forward who signed a two year deal with Barca in July. It was first time that a woman’s football transfer made BBC news, was a Twitter ‘trend’ and maybe an indicator that women’s football is about to get greater recognition. Let’s hope so, we can never have too many high profile sportswomen as positive role models for our daughters!
And as a bonus question do you know when the fifty-year ban on women playing in FA affiliated club grounds was lifted?
Answer in the next edition of The Albion Mag!
Sandra loves living in Brighton, where she works as a Business Doctor. Now in her second year as an Albion season ticket holder, she’s optimistic the success she brings to local businesses, working with them to build teams and achieve goals, will be replicated on the pitch.
Tags: Sandra Murphy