Brian Worthington, father of two girls and a boy, who all play football, fits in coaching around his other commitments because he loves watching them play: “It’s a priority for me. For us as a family it’s second nature. It’s how we spend our time together.”
When speaking to the mothers on the sidelines, as their umbrellas bend defiantly in the wind, there was a common sentiment that, had this cajoling existed when they were young, things would’ve been different.
For Sarah Johnson, her love of football was marred by the lack of opportunities for girls: “I’m a football fanatic but I didn’t have the opportunity to play when I was younger. It was a hobby that died away.” Amy Andrews agrees: “I wish I’d had the opportunities they’ve got.”
Most of the parents agreed that their daughters approach football in the same way as the boys – as far as they’re concerned, gender doesn’t get in the way of the game. As for Vicky Shaw’s daughter, nine: “She used to watch her brother play on the weekends. One day she said ‘why can’t I do something like that?’ and the rest was history. She’s used to playing with him, she just gets stuck in.”
However, the parents admit, safety is an entirely different issue when it comes to girls. Mother Maxine Expinol believes football is the answer: “When we were kids we would run around the streets and hang about on our bikes. These days parents are worried about their kids’ safety. With football, my daughter is getting outside a few times a week, mixing with other kids, and it’s in a safe space. It’s amazing for her health and fitness.”