GUYS, GIRLS, GOALS!
Gender, age or nationality can’t break the bonds of expat football players in Beijing
The end of summer in Beijing is now known as football season. On September 16, 2018, the World International Female Football League, the first ever amateur female soccer league in Beijing, was established.
One month ago, International Friendship Football Club (IFFC),
an expat football league in Beijing running since 1994, started its new season. The moment you put on your cleats and shorts, gender, nationality and age are no longer labels. On the pitch, there is only one name for you – soccer player.
Arranging their hair into a knot or ponytail and pulling on shin guards, the girls cannot wait to kick the ball and pass it to their teammates. They are members of a female amateur soccer team, “The Blacks” for having black uniforms, which belongs to China Club Football (CCF) in Beijing.
Two weeks ago, the first match of the league kicked off. Jackie Ross from Canada has witnessed many changes in women’s amateur soccer in Beijing. The 29-year old came here five years ago, and said that previously, there was no women’s soccer team in Beijing, and she had to play in a men’s team.
“Those times were so hard, and the men players pushed me a lot,” Ross told Metropolitan.
Through the joint efforts of Lola Ogunbote, the Blacks’ coach, Ross and some other girls, a female team was created on March 8, 2018. Valentina De Vico, 28, is one of them. Sharing a similar experience with Ross, De Vico said that “the match usually won’t get that tough because the men don’t want to hurt you.”
Today they can enjoy more balanced games with other girls.
“We are in the same level. Sometimes the match becomes more unpredictable, so you can have a lot of fun,” De Vico added. “The league allows me to meet more people outside in different ways and be a community with my teammates. Now we are really good friends,” said Ross.
The league may also have other posi- tive influences. Alex Arnold, a coach who works at CCF, came to watch the training.
“I feel proud of them. They might become many young girls’ role models,” he said. From his own experience coaching in Beijing, there are still many Chinese and foreign parents who see soccer as a predominately boy’s game. But the new league might inspire a great deal of positivity in women’s soccer in Beijing.
“If this league can encourage more young girls to love and play football, that will be an ideal situation,” Arnold said while a group of sweaty and laughing female players nearby practicing their attack formation.
It was a Sunday night in September as 13 young foreign and Chinese men shared ordered dishes and drank beer out of bottles at a long table in a Beijing bar. The members of this defendingchampion team got together for an after-match dinner. That afternoon, they won a IFFC Premier League match 14-2.
For every match, each member
writes down two men’s names, one for best player, another for worst, and give reasons according to their performance on the pitch. Jorge Reza, 28, from the US explained the rules of this game: everyone should vote anonymously and the Men and Donkeys will be announced in public.
“You have to write down your ‘man of match’ (MOM) and ‘donkey’,” Charles Wharton said, passing the reporter a pen and a piece of paper. Wharton is the manager of Forbidden City Football Club (FCFC), a Beijingbased soccer club established in 2004.
Enjoy the game
Four days before the match, 22 team members of FCFC from nine countries got together at Side Park in Chaoyang district at 8 pm for their training. Wharton said they have 34 team members, and no matter what they do and how busy they are, most of them go there and play football every Wednesday night.
“We know each other and care about each other. That’s why we can win the cup three times in a row,” said Edu, one of the team members from France.
At the end of their dinner, Reza explained that the aim of the “MOM” game was not to find out the best or worst players.
“It’s just a relationship-promotion game. It is OK for you to write down some interesting or stupid things about a member. Just getting to know each other and relaxing,” he said.
For each season, there is a Premier League, a First Division League and a big knock-out cup trophy called the Thomas Marechal Cup. The FCFC has already won the Thomas Marechal Cup three times in a row.
They are also the defending champion of the Premier League. According to the official IFFC website, 22 teams in total participated in matches this season. The members have different mother tongues and different jobs. They team up for football, a universal language.
In The Soccer Tribe, a book published in 1981, author Desmond Morris sees each football club as a tribe with a sharing culture among its members. The members of a team fight for the same target: Getting the ball in the goal. Soccer is soccer; gender, nationality and age do not matter. If you are moved by it, just get on the pitch, pass the ball to your teammates and enjoy the game.
Soccer is seen as a universal language. If you are really moved by it, just get on the pitch, pass the ball to your teammates and enjoy it.
From left to right: The team members of the Forbidden City Football Club; After a friendly match, the team members of the Blacks take a group photo.