FURD's women's football work has a particular focus on improving opportunities for under-represented groups, one of which is older women. There has been a lack of opportunities for women to play non-competitive football just for the fun, friendship and improved fitness that come from it. Many women of this generation had few if any opportunities to play football in their youth.
Our female football sessions are now attended by girls and women aged from around 11 through six decades, with our oldest player currently being 65.
In 2015, We were delighted to learn of a women's over-35 category in the first FA People's Cup - a national 5-a-side tournament - and along with another Sheffield group, Nunny's Funky Boots, we entered a team. However, nationally there were only 4 teams in the category and it was cancelled.
To prove a point, FURD and Nunny's organised our own 6-a-side 'veterans' tournament instead. We had 4 teams of women aged from 35 to 61, with some players bringing their grandchildren to watch.In 2016, FURD again entered the People's Cup. This time there were 6 teams and the competition went ahead with all 6 entering at the final stages. The finals were in Sheffield in March 2016 and we were thrilled to make it through to the final, where we lost to the Hackney Jurassics.
Since then, five of our players in their 40s and 50s have progressed to joining an 11-a-side team, the AFC Unity Jets, and playing in a competitive, open-age league, most of them for the first time in their lives.
Our veterans also teamed up with our younger players to play for FURD in a 5-a-side league.
54-year-old Michelle Garrigan said, "FURD helped me get back into playing football, and the People's Cup gave us a foothold into playing competitively as a team. I am now playing 11-a-side league football for the first time in my life, as there weren't many opportunities when I was younger".
Corinne Heritage said, "I was nervous at first about playing football over 50 as I'd hardly kicked a ball before, but I was proved wrong! I never imagined I'd go on to play in the People's Cup final and in an open age 11-a-side team. The growth in organised women's football, both competitive and recreational, has helped me so much, and I am proof that women of any age could and should play football."
We are now looking forward to the 2017 Peoples Cup, although as opportunities for older women slowly increase, we're expecting more opposition this time!
We are also taking an under-14 girls' team to the People's Cup for the first time this year.
New players of any age and any level of experience, including beginners, are always welcome.
We play every Tuesday from 6-7pm at the U-Mix Centre, Sheffield. For girls aged 8-15 we have a regular slot at U-Mix from 11am-12 on Saturdays. All sessions are currently FREE!
Just turn up, or contact our Women and Girls Football Worker Ruth Johnson for more information on 0114 2587787 or firstname.lastname@example.org.