After a 2019 that kickstarted an unprecedented fandom and participation in women's football, a pandemic hit 2020 has meant that clubs like Victoria Park Vixens have found that momentum stopped in its tracks. Charlotta Billstrom gives us a first-hand account on how they've kept in touch in the most difficult of years.
2019 was a great year for women’s football. The Women’s World Cup fuelled an interest for the sport and shone a bright new light on the grassroots scene. It was also the year that we, thanks to our captain Morgan, formed Victoria Park Vixens.
We were just a few 20-something year-old women keen to play some football together who had all found each other thanks to Instagram. Following our first (slightly awkward) meet up in Victoria Park, we met every week for training and matches. Between each season, the team had grown in number, and before we knew it Vixens had snowballed into a big, warm and welcoming community of 30+ players.
But then the pandemic hit. In January, we had ordered team socks which got stuck in China due to the virus. It’s funny to think that at this point, delayed socks were our biggest issue. Cut to March and everything got cancelled. It all felt a bit anti-climactic. We had spent a year playing together, improving our skills and building up this big community and now we just had to… stop.
Our WhatsApp group became our new meet up place. Since the first lockdown, this group was (and still is) the place where we have shared memes and TikToks, online events, hosted book clubs and quiz nights.
We even linked up with our friends Judas FC and created a workout group where we train together in themed workouts over zoom, toning our bodies to passes like ‘El-tone John’ or working on our cardio in the ‘Dua Leaping’ session (I’m giving our goalie Ellie all the credit for these workout classes).
There were windows last year when we could meet up and play, and those memories have kept us all going through this third and hopefully last lockdown. I think back on the Sundays in September when the light was golden and the air still warm and we practiced together (but maybe mostly just drank beer). I think back on the joy of putting on my sweaty shin pads and squeezing my feet into my slightly-too-small football boots and cycling off to the first match back at Mabley Green. I think back on the night out just before all the pubs closed. I think about all of this and I know we will have it all again.
Until then, we have our WhatsApp banter, our themed Zoom workouts and the memories of warm summer nights on the pitch.
By Charlotta Billstrom for STILES Magazine.