The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday
‘Joining a team brought a new social aspect to my life’
Vanessa Holburn, 51, is part of a football team in Twyford, Berkshire
Iwent to an all-girls secondary school in the 1980s, so I’d never been offered the chance to play football before I joined my team in October 2017. Our squad of 25 is mostly made up of mums in their 30s and 40s who, like me, have a daughter in the Wargrave Women and Girls Football Club.
We are in no way a serious team, and most of us had never played before. We don’t play in a league because the majority of us have families and other commitments, but we train once a week and occasionally have friendly matches against other local village teams.
Learning to play football at the age of 47 was so difficult – it’s quite hard to learn a new physical skill at that age, when you’ve had no experience whatsoever. I had to work on my eye-to-foot coordination and the stamina you need to play a game. Running around constantly is demanding, but thankfully, instead of playing two 45-minute halves, we play four 20-minute sections, which is more doable.
I’m definitely one of the older ones on the team, but it’s confidence-building to have other people at the same level as you who aren’t judgemental – people to improve your skills with, who you see every week.
Being in a team sport is a real change from going to the gym, where you’re more or less working out alone. We have a lot of fun in training and we socialise together afterwards – meeting up for a curry, or going for a drink after a match.
I’ve made a lot of new friendships and strengthened ones I already had. Working together to achieve something – and winning a match – feels tremendous.
I’ve been working at home by myself for years, as a journalist and author. I never feel lonely, as I am quite independent, but joining a football team has brought a new social aspect to my life. As you get older, you’re less likely to go out and meet people, as you already have a certain number of friends and only a certain amount of time to see them.
So meeting new people and being part of a team has been an amazing new experience – and one I would highly recommend.
There’s no age limit on who can enjoy football. As long as you can run, you can play; and if you can’t run, you can look for a team that does walking football.