I’ve got to confess that I’ve not been a whole hearted participant in the ‘the Lionesses won the European Cup so all’s well with the world’ orgy of celebration following last Sunday’s victory. I don’t want to play down the victory and I’ll certainly applaud the impact that it will likely have on women’s participation in football and sport in general but I suspect that even 1966 didn’t get the obsessive media coverage that we’re seeing today. We are inclined to overdo stuff aren’t we?
But I reckon I can be cut a little slack because I’ve done my bit and it started in the early 90s when we were living in Switzerland.
In Switzerland youth sport is not driven through the schools as a it is in the UK but through local sports clubs and our village club, Fussballclub Richterswil, was for some reason at the time a hotspot for women’s football. Every year it ran a tournament for the youth of the community and that’s how my daughter got sucked in.
Clare would have been 10 or 11 at the time and began to play in the under 13s side. They were well equipped, each player was supplied with a sports bag, track suit and football, and well coached and each weekend in the season played games against similar clubs. I seem to remember they were 7-a-side and not on a full sized pitch and that substitutions were liberal. At most it would have been half an hour each way.
Of course our team reflected our village and although it’s not quite the same as Histon it’s similar. So in addition to Clare there was Nadia whose father was also an Auslander, the mother of one of our goalies was Filipino, the other goalie was the daughter of one of our village doctors. There was probably similar diversity amongst the rest.
Towards the end of the season there was a national tournament and I don’t recall the earlier rounds but our team got to finals day, semi-finals and the final were to be played on the same day. It was a big day out for the parents who went in their own bus, the players had their own transport and went along earlier. On the journey there we were told how to behave!
It was quite an event, of course there were supporters from all four clubs, and we had referees and their assistants in black. When the Swiss do things they do them properly. The other teams were from bigger clubs, I remember Berne and Basel, and their players seemed bigger than ours.
Remarkably we won. Twice. So we became Swiss champions at our age group.
And then the next year same again. Champions. Sadly we then left Switzerland so I don’t know if Richterswil made it three in a row but then again many of the players would have moved up into a higher age group.
We moved from Richterswil to Wilmslow and Clare joined Stockport Ladies and that was a big change. It wasn’t just a different country, it was bigger girls and full sized pitches. Plus we played in the winter and some of the grounds were bleak. I remember trips down the East Lancs Road and playing on fields with twenty or more pitches as the wind swept in.
Clare played with Stockport Ladies for two years before we moved down to Cambridge where she played with as school team at Hills Road and then she was off to university. And my days of driving were over. But I feel that I’ve done my bit.