Lockdown restrictions begin to ease once more, the sunshine’s beaming all day, social media is awash with ‘grassroots is back’ and car boots are full to the brim with bibs, cones and footballs. Just like everyone else, football for the Fawkes is back.
I count myself lucky that I’m one of those 3.4 million women and girls playing this brilliant game but I’ll be the first to admit, there was a little bit of anticipation about returning. I’ve spent the last three months stuck inside, like everyone else, and occasionally kicked a football to a disinterested Jack Russell so the idea of being surrounded by my whole team again was a little daunting. But the reality of football making a comeback was an overwhelming sense of excitement, by which I mean I almost saw my lunch again, as I laced up my astro’s and got back on the pitch.
Like most football teams WhatsApp’s, I suspect, there’ve been some quiet periods over the last three months but the buzz was definitely back in the last week as we counted down the return to football and the replies were virtually instant when that ‘who’s available?’ message chimed through once more. We’ve got barely enough time to think about whether we’ve still got a first touch, a strike on goal or a defensive block in the locker as we saw a unanimous vote to continue the season by the clubs in our league last Monday with our return to fixtures kicking off this weekend away to Wargrave.
Motivation actually stayed relatively high amongst the team as I set more and more indulgent challenges through our Strava club to try and keep a little bit of fitness about the players. But it was also a way to keep morale up when we were so limited by activity and get people out.
And despite the jubilation of multiple members of the squad ticking off 100km each month or making it to our next virtual tour destination, it definitely didn’t feel quite as good as that first ‘you alright mate’ as we were once again surrounded by each other with a ball at our feet and the coach shouting to explain the next drill.
Three months off may well have made coach Graham nervous, but with players returning from injury and a few new faces the team were looking pretty sharp on return and all fired up for the first fixture since December. The first third of the session was a little bit of drill work, just to get players back into the flow of passing and movement, but the majority of the session was about just getting back together as a team and playing the game we all adore so much!
Good luck to everyone returning this weekend, whether it’s a league fixture, a friendly or you’re just down the park with five mates. How bloody great does it feel that football is back?
Abi had a moving piece featured in the latest issue of The Grassroots Post about why she finally decided to get out on to the pitch herself.