By Gemma Bell
I remember being young, only 6 or 7, I came downstairs that Sunday night to hear my Dad cheering at the TV. His cheers were so loud he'd woken me. He had already watched the game that day but he was watching it back on a well known programme. I remember looking at him and thinking wow this must be special! I never saw my Dad excited like that about anything! He would tell me stories about being at the ground and the atmosphere and those were the stories that sparked a buzz inside me. You see he would have liked a boy. He is a real man's man my Dad. I guess it didn't take me long to work this out and become a football fanatic eager to spend time with him.
I was 8 when my Dad took me to my first game. I remember getting on the train with the 'lads' and thinking I was the bee's knees. They were all chatting about the transfer window and I was listening intently. I remember walking out into the stadium and being in ore of the massive pitch in front of me. The feeling is really hard to describe. From the buzz as people filter out the pub and into the ground to the flashing screens of adverts it really all creates something rather special. As the fans started to sing I knew there and then this was the sport for me. This was going to be a huge part of my life.
Fast forward 10 years and by that time I was a barmaid. The Saturday shift was always fun. The lads always had something to say about me being female when I joined in football chit chat. Don't worry I soon shot them down and dazzled them with my ability to understand the offside rule. I didn't even need to use the purse in a shop analogy! Impressive eh!! By that time I'd spent 10 years listening to sexist comments on how girls shouldn't like football and how being offside is being outside of the kitchen. I don't mind the banter to be fair. I'm fortunate to have an extremely broad sense of humour.
Fast forward another 12 years and here I am. Now I'm a single parent of two boys, one who has played for Arsenal soccer school and a three year old who is training comfortably with 5 year olds. Not bad for a girl who surly doesn't know the offside rule eh! Oh and I'm a football coach, level one trained by the FA. You'd think in this day and age people wouldn't bat an eyelid right! Wrong... just last weekend I took my boys ( yes that's right, I have a boys team ) to a tournament and one of the boys playing for another team asked if I was manager. When I said yes he laughed, he laughed and told me I couldn't be because I'm a girl! I can see his dad now reading this in disgust at me being away from my sandwich making duties.
When I heard what the guys at LISA were up to I knew it merged both my passions... football and encouraging females into the sport. Men and women are not the same, we have different needs but that doesn't mean we have to have different interests. And what better interest than the IMPS! That's the exact reason I fully support LISA ... we have a place in football us women, we can understand the offside rule and if your really, really lucky - we'll even bring a picnic basket 😉