England behind England: Is it coming home?

We joined Romance F.C’s Women’s World Cup screening in an East London pub to catch up with the fans, old and new.

It’s the Women’s World Cup. And there’s not an empty seat in the pub.

These are the people shaping the future of football, one scream at the TV and one bang of a fist on the table at a time. When it comes to the Women’s game, a lot has changed since the last World Cup. This time around the team have better sponsors, better kit and it’s the first year that the entire squad are full-time football players. It’s mad to think that just four years ago these women had to keep jobs on the side to fund their passion.

Waves don’t start at the top. They start from the movement below the surface. People of the every day, who are slamming down the history books and saying enough is enough. In aid of the big event, Romance FC, Slowe and Bad Sports have come together to host a number of WWC screenings. Their mission? To ensure the women’s matches get the airtime they deserve this summer. And it’s resulted in a football community like no other. There’s no judgement here. You don’t need to understand the off-side rule, or even know any of the player’s names – as long as you can chant it’s coming home”.

The door is open.

TRISHA LEWIS Founder of Romance F.C.

What made you get into football?

When I first moved to London I felt like a small fish in a big pond. I really struggled to find a community, so it was a no-brainer to get involved with football. I went down to the Boiler Room games and they asked if I wanted to set-up a women’s team – the rest is history!

Women’s football, men’s football, is there a difference?

There’s way more comradery in the women’s game. Everyone has got each other’s back, on and off the pitch. It’s not a one-person show. We win together, we lose together, we draw together. There is no shame for having faults; I think that’s what defines sisterhood.

Is it coming home this summer?

I have hope. Not only are they starting to believe in themselves, they have a whole country behind them. If they keep playing the way they’ve been playing, and give us a bit more bite, they will go all the way through. But even if they don’t win, the Euros are coming and that will be on home turf, it’s the perfect chance to show-off what they’re made of.

Thoughts on Phil Neville?

He. Is. Great. It’s the Cinderella story. The underdog. It’s everything we can relate to. When you’ve been on the losing side you appreciate how great winning feels, and that’s what he is chasing. What a role model!

How would you sum up the first goal against Japan?

It was awesome, I swear it happened in slow motion. It was one of those unexpected moments where everything aligns.

ALEX LEDGE – Member of Lesbian Football Club”

Tell us, what kind of fan are you?

I am a die-hard fan. Now I’ve started playing, I actually understand what’s going on and can make sense of the rules.

Who is your favourite player?

Nikita, whatsaname…Parris? Yeah, she’s from Liverpool, she’s fucking lovely AND played excellently in the last match!

What got you into football?

Literally, I set up a Lesbian football club called Lesbian Football Club. I started it as a way to find queer mates who were women, not to find a girlfriend! It’s all about the sport.

If the England football squad were a packet Crisps, which flavour would be they be?

Skips. They are a classic, everyone loves them, they feel kinda nostalgic and they leave a tang in the tongue.

BECKY PLOTNEK

Tell us, what kind of fan are you?

I am zero to a hundred. Just getting into it and simultaneously a die-hard fan.

Who is your favourite player?

Did you see the ref for the last France vs Norway game? Wow, she was great. Not a player, but her, It’s got to be her.

What got you into football?

Just queer women working in the arts, who wanted to do a social fun sport together. Football was the sport we went for.

If the England football squad were a packet Crisps, which flavour would be they be?

Salt and vinegar; we bring the right amount of everything to get that perfect flavour.

ISOLDE GODFREY Member of Lesbian Football Club”

Tell us, what kind of fan are you?

You know what I’m just getting into it. So I’d say a starter fan.

What got you into football?

Alex – my mate [who] started a lesbian football club which we now all run together.

If the England football squad were a packet Crisps — which flavour would be they be?

Monster munch – my favourite.

DOMINIQUE RUSSELL

What got you into football?

When I was little my auntie and uncle kitted us out in all the hammers kit. And I loved it. Then that was kind of it. But I got back into it recently because my boyfriend is an Arsenal fan, so I normally just watch it with him.

Is women’s sport your usual thing?

This is the first one where I’ve made sure I’ve watched the whole thing. It’s just a way of meeting loads of other girls who are into football. This can be something we can all do together.

Women’s football, men’s football – is there a difference?

It brings together a collection of like-minded girls – it’s powerful.

GEORGINA HUNT

What got you into football?

My family got me into football. My dad and my grandad are massive West Ham fans, so I grew up watching it. But it wasn’t until I got to uni and started researching women’s sport, that I was so blown away by it all. I’m kind of more into the culture than the actual game. I love everything that it stands for, football brings people together.

Is women’s sport your usual thing?

I watched it a bit. But having looked into the history of women’s football it really pisses me off. So I turn that anger into something positive and come to these events. I’ve always wanted girls to watch football with. Whenever I go to football matches it’s always my dad and his mates. So this great, I get to chat with girls about football, and that’s something special.

Women’s football, men’s football, is there a difference?

I love men’s football, but with the women’s there is something to root for. It’s a mission to believe in.

How would you describe the England players?

All the women on the team are classic English women. I like how some of the girls have fake nails, fake eyelashes — like that’s a real woman, that’s real England. They represent the women of today.

JAMES PIERCE

What got you into football?

I’ve played it all my life. My dad was a Liverpool fan, but I liked Ian Wright. So I started supporting Arsenal when I was like four. That’s where it all began.

Is women’s sport your usual thing?

In years before I haven’t followed it that much. This is the first Women’s World Cup I’m properly following and it’s great.

How would you describe the England players?

They are real. And it’s the same even with the men, they used to be kind of salt of the Earth’ blokes, and now they are walking around with little bum bags. That’s England today, I guess.

VIKS ABOLS

What got you into women’s football?

I did it because I wasn’t allowed to. My dad was in the army and I used to turn up at the army youth clubs wanting to play and everyone would tell me I can’t. So I went every day and just sat watching the boys play. It took them a year before they said: yeah you can play”. Then after that season, girls were allowed to play football in the army. It was sound as fuck!

How has support for the women’s game changed?

I am watching the women’s game. In London. In a pub FULL of people. I never thought I’d say! Over the past eight years, it’s spiralled and it’s fucking incredible.

Women’s football, men’s football, is there a difference?

Money makes the difference. The women aren’t playing for pound signs. It’s for the love of football. It’s just normal football and they happen to be women.

Who is your favourite player?

Lucy Bronze. A very athletic, skilled player. That’s a quick way for saying she’s fit as fuck haha.

If the England football squad were a packet Crisps, what flavour would be they be?

A new flavour of it’s coming home.

NIKKI CRAWLEY [left], SOPHIE HARDING [right]

Tell us, what kind of fan are you?

Nikkie: I’ve only really got into watching it recently. But I love it – I would call myself a die-hard fan now.

Sophie: I watch a lot of men’s football, but there has been so much coverage of the women’s game, we’ve been watching every match. Recent die-hard is how I’d describe us.

Do you play football?

Nikki: Yeah. I love playing football, I’ve played for years. I was gutted at 11 when I had to stop playing with my boys team because mixed-sex groups weren’t allowed past that age. But then I found a girls team, and I’ve basically carried on since. It’s the best.

Sophie: I used to play a bit here and there. But now I am more of a watcher than a player haha!

Have you watched the Women’s World Cup before?

Nikki: I have watched bits. But never followed a tournament like I have followed this World Cup. Like every match, we’re glued to it.

Is it coming home?

Sophie: I don’t want to say. The pressure is high. But English football, well it hasn’t exactly got the best history has it. Let’s hope for the semi’s, that’d be nice.

Nikki: I think we’ve got a good chance. Just following them on Instagram, you can see they are having loads of fun. That helps. Fun is the secret to a win I reckon.

Thoughts on Phil Neville?

Nikki: I love him. Some people were anti him because he wasn’t into” the women’s game. But he clearly understands women. And it feels genuine.

Sophie: I think he gets a lot of stick and shit from and the papers and other footballers. But Phil has felt what’s it like to not have the respect he deserves. He has something in common with the girls, he knows a bit of how they are feeling and I think that’s amazing.

Who is your favourite player?

Nikki: I like Carly Telford, the goalie — she’s great!

Sophie: I’d say Lucy Bronze. But she hasn’t really played that great yet. Obviously Steph Houghton too, but I thought the last game, she was awful. Hopefully, Phil has had a word with her haha!

If the England football squad were a packet Crisps, which flavour would be they be?

Nikki: Gotta be Salt and Vinegar McCoys, you know the ones with the ridges in? They are tough but full of flavour.

Sophie: Easy. Ready salted Walkers. They have the potential to be the best crisps, but some days they aren’t. Some days you just need a bit more flavour.


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