Gemma playing football on the beach

Gemma’s story: ‘If it wasn’t for playing football, I don’t think I would of made it through.’


Written by Gemma, one of our brilliant supporters who wanted to share the impact team sport has had on her life, throughout very difficult times. Gemma says if she helps one person who reads her blog, then her job is done.

I started playing football at a very early age. At primary school, I’d play at break time and it was mostly just me and the boys. No other girls wanted to play.

Of course, there was also this ‘girls can’t play football’ stigma, which unfortunately a small minority still believe.

There was no girls football teams in school back then and it was even hard finding a local club. I did try dozens of times, but they would get closed within a week as they got hardly any funding.

My dad was my best friend, I played football with him often, either in the garden or on the beach. It was my biggest passion growing up and he always supported me. I wanted to be a footballer. It was also an escape from the bullying I was facing in the real world. For that one hour, I felt free.

I wanted to give up is when I was about 14-years-old. I went to a training week at Manchester United, and I was the only girl there. All the boys laughed and I felt so alone. I thought then, “How can I make it if not even one girl is turning up?”. I hope that would be different now.

Before he passed away, my dad and I used to go and watch football together all the time. We both supported Manchester United and even went to see Plymouth Argyle a few times.

At primary school, I'd play at break time and it was mostly just me and the boys.

When I moved to London, one of the first things I wanted to do was find a women’s football team to play in. But life got in the way. By the time I had found a club, which my dad had always encouraged me to do, he had already passed away.

My dad sadly passed away during the pandemic so I wasn’t able to say goodbye to him. My amazing dad, who was there for me from the day I was born, and I couldn’t be there the day he took his last breath.

My mum had passed away just three years before, so it really very hard for me. Grieving during the pandemic, I wasn’t able to have a support network with friends coming around to help me through it. I fell into a dark place and I felt like there was no way out.

If it wasn't for playing football, I don't think I would of made it through.

When we were able to do activities again, I discovered Footy Addicts, an app where you can find clubs and pitches in your local area, and it honestly changed my life.

I hadn’t been out of the house for a long time and I thought I may as well try. I’m so glad I did. Everyone just made me feel so welcome from the get go. It made me rediscover my passion and brought the old me back again, not to mention the sense of belonging it gave me.

Grief doesn’t just stop. There are still some incredibly hard days, but the one thing that is helping get a smile back on my face is playing football. If it wasn’t for football and the friends I met playing, I don’t think I would of made it through.

It made me feel part of something special, doing something I loved since I was a kid. It made me discover myself again and I started coming out of that dark hole.

Football and team sports really does help with mental health and gaining that confidence again. I’m not only playing football, but I play it with people I can now call friends.




Our guest blogs are written by individuals not affiliated with Women in Sport, and therefore our charity does not necessarily agree with all opinions expressed. 

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