Welcome to Moving the Goalposts, the Guardian’s new (and free) women’s football newsletter. Here’s an extract from this week’s edition. To receive the full version once a week, just pop your email below.
It all started with a WhatsApp group. When repeated attempts to join the five-a-sides men were knocked back, Romaney Pinnock decided to take matters into her own hands. “I put every woman I know in Cape Town into a group. I said I’m starting a football club. ” It was at this time that Badgers Academy was born.
It is hard to imagine now, five years on. What started as 10 women simply learning the game has developed into a female-owned non-profit organization that has a far-reaching impact, with 149 women and girls now registered. With provision for 11 and five-a-side, as well as school activations and social activities, they have recently joined the South African Football Association (SAFA) and will take part in their local league this season.
They provide a safe and inclusive space where everyone is welcome: “We’re big on inclusivity. We don’t mind what your sexual orientation is, what your socioeconomic status is, any of that stuff. Because team sports are such a leveller. ”
The women’s game is progressing across South Africa with the national team reaching their first World Cup in 2019. This weekend, the Sasol League (SAFA’s provincial women’s league) kicked off with around 3,800 players involved.
However, there are problems. In Cape Town, a city known for its socio-economic disparities, access to a traditionally male-dominated sport is challenging for many. Schools are under-funded and under-resourced, while lack of safety and poor infrastructure make it difficult for girls to participate. Badgers tackle this through their partnerships with schools and junior football, providing a way for girls to garner a love for the sport as well as build their self-confidence. Community manager and player Micheala Dampies has noticed the difference: “It’s been proven that it’s very important, especially in our junior girls who are currently in high school and primary school. I can see that it’s benefited them so much. You can see the joy and the happiness, and the change in the girls’ attitude since they started. ”
Cathy, 17, is one such player to have benefited from the organization. Having grown up playing with her brothers, she joined Badgers earlier this year after being introduced to school. Now a striker in their junior side, she has thrived at the club: “It has helped a lot because when you think of soccer, in general, you think of just boys playing. I only played with boys because I couldn’t find any girls’ soccer teams. So, I think being in my first official women’s team has helped a lot. It’s given me a space to connect with other ladies. ”
While having a significant effect on younger girls, Badgers have had a huge impact on their adult members as well, providing opportunities to learn a new sport, building fitness and offering social interaction. Romaney, Micheala, and Sarah Wallace have all felt their self-esteem grow as they develop their skills. As Sarah highlights: “Soccer, and Badgers specifically, has honestly changed my life. I am so much happier and so much more at ease with myself because of it… Badgers has created an incredibly welcoming space, no matter who you are. It’s been incredible to be a part of this very welcoming community because that’s what Badgers is. It’s amazing to feel part of something bigger that’s doing such great things for women and girls in Cape Town. ”
What’s next for Romaney and her Badgers team? Well, there is certainly no resting on their laurels. Off the pitch, they continue to fundraise to provide more for women and girls in their area, including looking at transportation offers and food. On the pitch, Romaney has her eyes on creating a surprise in their new league: “I would love to see us excel. We’re coming in as the underdogs. We’re a very mixed level. Let’s see how that goes. There’s such a joy of being the underdog when nobody expects much of you, but maybe we come home with a trophy, if not this season maybe next season, and then we’re all going to lose our minds. ”
Brawls, goals and more records fall: There was no shortage of drama on and off the pitch as old rivals Lyon and PSG came face to face in the Champions League. Not for the first time this year has trouble surrounded the PSG squad. Their preparations were marred by reports of in-fighting at the training ground, resulting in Kheira Hamraoui not traveling. They looked to have put their troubles aside when the effervescent Marie-Antoinette Katoto fired them ahead. Lyon rallied to take a 3-2 first-leg lead. Wendie Renard marked her 100th UWCL appearance with a penalty while Catarina Macario pounced on PSG’s mistakes to score twice. Elsewhere Barcelona broke their previous attendance record: 91,648 fans packed into the Camp Nou to watch their side waltz to a 5-1 victory over Wolfsburg.
Government-led review announced: The UK government has announced its intention to launch an in-depth review of women’s football this summer. Independently chaired, it will look at all aspects of the sport, from grassroots to elite level. Its findings, to be published by the end of the year, will hope to provide a pathway to closing the gap to the men’s game. England’s Lionesses are set for the biggest moment in their history with a home European Championships on the horizon. It is hoped that this review and hosting a major tournament will provide a springboard forward as the game continues to progress.
Romance lives on at Ibrox: Football’s romantic side shone through at Ibrox on Sunday when Nicola Docherty rifled in her side’s third goal. The lifelong Rangers fan could not hide her post-match elation as her side swept aside Aberdeen in front of more than 4,400 spectators. “I find it really hard to sum up my emotions. I’m still absolutely buzzing right now to be honest, ”she said. The victory keeps Rangers on course to wrestle the SWPL title away from close neighbors Glasgow City, who have won the league 14 times in a row. Malky Thomson’s side are undefeated with three games to play. They currently hold a healthy lead at the top of the table, but can they hang on to it until May 15?