My Experience As A Girl In The World Of Campus League Football
black adidas cleats lean on white and black adidas soccer ball on green grass
Photo by Alex on Unsplash

My Experience As A Girl In The Male-Dominated World Of Campus League Football

Ella Kipling April 18, 2022

During the warm up of the very first match I played as part of a campus league football team, one of the other girls on the team missed a goal. Plenty of the boys on the team had done the same thing, but this blunder was met with a comment from one of the players who muttered something about ‘Well, they’re girls.’

Before I could say anything, another male teammate quickly shot them down by saying: ‘It shouldn’t matter that they’re girls.’ While this was incredibly disheartening to hear, particularly during my campus league debut, this comment was not representative of my time playing in a mixed team over the past year. 

I think that mixed teams are brilliant. They allow everyone to play together regardless of gender and they are inclusive, which was the whole purpose of the team being set up in the first place. My campus league team is made up of members of the university radio station, so I love that we all get to play together and share an experience on the pitch every Friday lunchtime. Our team is particularly inclusive, as we have four girls who play. Despite playing a match every week for months, we are yet to face an opposing team with a single girl on it. 

Environment of fun

I also play campus league netball, which is predominantly known as a women’s sport, and every week the teams have featured at least one or two boys. So why is it that football campus league matches are so male-heavy? I don’t think that this is because girls don’t want to play football, I would instead argue that societies who set up campus league teams perhaps don’t encourage participation enough. My team’s captain, fellow Freshered writer Seth Nobes, has played a huge part in ensuring an inclusive atmosphere, and from the get-go he pushed for the team to feature girls. Anyone can play, whether you’re talented with a ball or not, and everyone gets time on the pitch each match. He has created an environment where the main aim is to go out there and have fun, and that is exactly how it should be.

Me in my element at the football. Photo by Ellen Knight.

Having a captain that genuinely wants you on the pitch and believes in you to play well in a game against an all-male team is the reason I have continued to play football every week. I’m not a great player, all I bring to the pitch is the ability to run around endlessly chasing the ball and going headfirst into tackles (no, I clearly don’t value my shins) but that really does not matter. I would love to see more girls getting involved with campus league football. Even though all we’re doing is running around a pitch every Friday, it can sometimes feel as though us girls on the team are setting an example, and I hope that we’ve shown other people who may be walking past the games that girls can get involved. 

Surprise inclusion

A lot of the teams we go against seem surprised to see girls on the team. This itself surprises me, it’s 2022, why are we still assuming sport is for men? However, being underestimated can sometimes be a good thing, and I aim to make the most of having an underdog mentality. Sometimes players don’t expect much from me, or don’t expect me to go in hard with the tackles, but that just means that I can catch them off guard. I find that it is harder to deal with when it comes from your own team. Generally, the team has been really accepting and as a girl I’m not treated any differently from the boys, which is exactly how it should be. Sometimes it can be frustrating on the pitch, and I know I share this sentiment with some of the other girls on the team, as oftentimes it has felt as though I become invisible. I would love to say that I don’t get passed the ball sometimes because I’m just not a very good player (which is definitely true- I have very little skill to contribute) but I see some of the boys on the team with the same skill level being heavily included in the play so it can be hard to know whether I am being ignored on the pitch because of my gender or simply my two left feet.

Confidence building

However, my confidence has grown immensely since the first game and I no longer feel pressure when playing against teams of all boys. Our team celebrates every match together and supports each other massively. Being part of a team has been one of my favourite parts of uni life this year, and our Friday games followed by a post-match pint at the pub after is something I look forward to every week. To any girl out there thinking of getting involved: do it. 

I think there is often a mentality that if a girl wants to be part of a campus league team she has to be an exceptional player for her to be worthy of joining. But believe me, you don’t have to be the next Megan Rapinoe- that is the whole point of campus league! If boys are joining teams and getting involved purely for the fun of it (and trust me, it is fun!) then why shouldn’t you? 

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Ella Kipling is an Entertainment and News Writer at GRV Media. She regularly writes a mixture of news and features for HITC and has been part of the team since 2020. After graduating from the University of Birmingham with a BA (Hons) in English Literature, Ella is currently studying for an MA in Magazine Journalism at City University. She has a keen interest in current affairs and can usually be found reading the news, with her nose in a book (and updating her Goodreads), talking about women’s rights, or listening to Showtunes.