Londoners are challenging stereotypes in British football culture…
The World Cup has brought mass media attention to the female game but for those already with an interest in women’s football and levelling the gender playing field, the passion and appetite for the sport is nothing new.
Whilst your football stereotypes might be reduced to men and as far as the fans go, beer-guzzling lads – particularly in the UK – a recent event in London set about tackling just that… firmly but fairly.
‘The series was shot at a Women’s 5 a side tournament at Mabley Green organised by the wonderful Festival of Football in partnership with The Super 5 League,’ says Joshua T Gibbons, the photographer behind these featured images. A not-for-profit organisation, the aim of Festival of Football was to challenge stereotypes and create a conversation about British football culture that is removed from the norm.
‘Very simply, I wanted to celebrate the brilliant players and teams, some of which are giants of grassroots women’s football in London, whilst being very conscious to shoot the participants as footballer players opposed to women that play football,’ Josh tells us, himself admitting to being somewhat sheltered to the women’s game until this summer and moments like this.
Nikki, though (pictured below), is far from that, and has been playing for as long as she can remember:
‘As a child I always played football with the boys and that’s how I first got into it. It tests your physical ability as well as your mental ability. You need to really think about your next move or pass and how well or smartly you’re going to execute that. It’s like a mixture of creativity and your mind.’
Both photographer and subject agree that this point in time feels like a pivotal one for women’s football and, as such, a challenge to the existing norms that have long dominated the game.
‘Most definitely now women’s football is evolving more than ever,’ says Nikki who represents Rising Ballers FC, a brand growing in its own right. ‘The stakes are much higher as the sport has become even more competitive and we are finally getting the recognition that we deserve which is all we’ve ever wanted. To see that change is very exciting.’
As for the photographer who brought these inspiring scenes to our attention, Joshua is equally optimistic about what the future holds:
‘Amazing and tireless work (is) being done by grassroots women’s football clubs all over the U.K. and Europe, myself and other members of the football media are now beginning to give Women’s football the attention it rightfully deserves! I really hope that all of the major brands and publications that are so heavily focusing their media campaigns and social media content on the women’s game currently, continue doing so after the World Cup ends and the media attention subsides.’
Whether or not such hopes and predictions come to fruition remains yet to be seen but, as we have seen so many times with our sport, the power is with the people and it is with the fans. Here is to a summer of inclusive football for all, that will hopefully stretch far beyond this grassroots tournament and 2019 World Cup.