She shoots, she scores!

04 July 2019 | Healthy living

Sidonie from our Health Information Team is a football fanatic. She shares why she plays football and the health benefits of exercise.

2019 is the year of women’s football; at least, that’s what everyone is saying with the FIFA Women’s World Cup final between the USA and the Netherlands looming this Sunday. But for me personally, 2018–19 really has been my year of football.

When I was younger, I wasn’t into sport; quite frankly, I was barely into exercise. For me, being physically active meant being sweaty, looking red, not understanding the rules, and feeling like I was letting down any team I was forced to play with. Put it this way; if we had to play rounders at school, I would go outfield as far away from the ball as possible, or would miss the class entirely. If I had to exercise, it was only to keep fit and it was in solitude. 

I’m not alone in this attitude towards sports. Girls aged 7–16 are less likely to enjoy being active than boys, with only 31 per cent feeling confident when taking part in sports. And while it is improving, there is still a gender gap when it comes to physical activity. Many girls feel like sport in general isn’t for them, let alone football.

Goal Diggers FC

Sidonie and team-mate celebrate with medals from their first tournament.

This all changed for me in April 2018 when I joined Goal Diggers FC, a football club for women and non-binary people whose motto is “availability not ability”. I’d known about the club for over a year, but after some convincing I finally went to a free training session with a few friends for moral support. I was incredibly nervous, completely out of my comfort zone, and out of breath. But I have never regretted it. Over a year later I still attend training sessions (almost) weekly and even scored the winning penalty in my first tournament in London.

Play sport, prevent cancer

Of course, working at World Cancer Research Fund means I know the advantages of being physically active. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and protects against bowel, breast and womb cancers; plus insufficient physical activity has been linked to cardiovascular disease, strokes, diabetes, poor bone health and depression. But for me, football is about more than just health. I feel empowered, have made amazing friends, and have finally found a sport in a setting where I feel confident.

If you've been inspired by the World Cup and want to try playing the beautiful game, I totally recommend finding a local football club. It needn't be difficult to find football near you, as the FA’s handy tool helps locate clubs or casual kickabouts. Or why not simply get a group of friends together to have a kickabout in the park? With so many health benefits, don't let anything hold you back!

Sidonie Sakula-Barry | 04 July 2019