Well, we won’t be the first or the last to say that 2020 was very different from any other year we have all experienced. Saying that, you’d think that football wouldn’t have had as big a part to play in the last twelve months. How wrong we would be. If anything, there was even more reason to see why being part of a community, like the Belles was even more important now than ever before.
January started in familiar fashion with the Belles taking a team of ten to the New Years Day Larkfield Veterans Charity Tournament. In boggy and sodden conditions, we started with purpose. Playing six games, we drew five and lost one. Within the week, training had resumed and then the following weekend we had played our second match, a local friendly.
In women’s recreational football the Crawley Old Girls are the founders, trailblazers and inspiration for many like minded teams so to arrange a fixture with the Old Girls is always a privilege. We had the pleasure of welcoming them to Hayes Lane to play on the stadium pitch under the lights. The torrential rain did not put off over forty women in what were two eventful 11 a side games.
February saw two more tournaments. The ‘Hate Crime, Love Football’ festival in support of the LGBT History Month was held in Lewisham with the support of the Metropolitan Police Service. The girls played amazingly well and Mia, who had only just joined the Belles was awarded the ‘Player’s Player’ – superb effort from her and the rest of the team.
At the end of the month the Belles hosted a round robin tournament to celebrate 500 days until the start of the Women’s Euro 2021 tournament, which is due to be held in the UK. Fellow recreational teams, Crawley Old Girls and Maidstone Magpies attended, with nearly fifty women playing in the mini tournament hosted on the stadium pitch. The matches were played in great spirit and there was plenty of goal mouth action with some fantastic goals scored. The event was a brilliant celebration of what women’s recreational football is all about – older women playing football in a fun, friendly environment with other like minded women.
February also brought amazing news that we had been nominated by the Kent FA for The FA’s ‘Football for All’ award at the London Football Awards 2020. The awards ceremony held in March was an opportunity to meet other organisations in football who are working hard in their communities to make a difference through sport. Bromley Belles were proud to represent both the Kent FA and Bromley FC at such a prestigious event.
With the growth of the team it seemed a natural progression to become a constituted group, and in February we successfully elected a committee to oversee the further development of women’s recreational football in the local area and in a national level. Also to raise the profile of women’s recreational football we made our very own website bromleybellesfc.co.uk
We also welcomed a new coach to the team, with Max coming on board to join our current coach Kaiyo (in drinking lots of tea!).
March saw the last tournament pre lockdown with the Belles taking a team to the annual International Women’s Day tournament hosted by Girls United FA, who work to empower girls through football in disadvantaged communities. The Belles were one of ten teams in the beginner section. After being runners-up in their group, we qualified for the semi-final. Winning 1-0, the Belles made it to the final. After a valiant effort the girls just missed out, conceding in the last minute. They had every reason to hold their heads up high.
March also saw us celebrate our second birthday! With over forty women registered with the Belles, it has been a massive achievement for everyone in making the club such a welcoming and friendly group. Unfortunately, our celebrations were cut short as on the advice of the FA, we were told to stop all grassroots football. Lockdown started – football paused.
Immediately, the team members wanted to help out in these challenging times. Within a week the girls had raised over £300 to buy food hampers for London Ambulance staff, nurses and teaching staff. Games and activities were also bought for a residential home for autistic adults and food was donated to Foal Farm, home of our two sponsored goats, Gerry and Andy.
With everyone indoors during lockdown, team mate Kate decided to run a zoom boot camp open for any Belles to join. There was a great turnout and Kate then kindly ran a bootcamp for all the Belles, every week throughout lockdown. It was an amazing boost to everyone involved being able to stay fit and chat with team mates. This effort epitomises what the Belles is all about – more than football, being part of a community.
In May we were proud to be part of Team Bromley FC in the #MylesForTheNHS charity event in which we attempted to complete a marathon as a team and raise money for the NHS in the process. In true Belles style the call went out and the team surpassed all expectations with twenty-four members taking part. We pounded the streets of Bromley, walking running and cycling 208 miles which was the equivalent of completing over 7 marathons! It was amazing to be part of such a fantastic effort and we raised over £300 for this great cause.
As the summer started and with Kate keeping us ticking over with bootcamp we welcomed the initial return to football in a new socially distanced way. Glad to have a ball at our feet we were even more excited to return to training.
Keen to get as many friendlies in before another imminent lockdown we organised a game with friends, Crawley Old Girls. Another example of us living the football dream.
Still aware of the hardship many families are experiencing during the pandemic, the Belles were keen to continue supporting local charities. During October, we collected food and essential items for local people in crisis and donated these to the Bromley foodbank. The Bromley foodbank continue to accept donations, having delivered over 600 Christmas hampers to people in need. We also collected much needed food donations for FOAL Farm.
At our last training session we finished the year celebrating the Rainbow Laces campaign – because football is for everyone, and everyone is welcome. And in what has been a difficult year we finished 2020 remembering how important it is to be part of a community. Both the Belles and Kenley Hockey Club, who some of the Belles also play for, were invited to take part in a virtual carol service led by the Archbishop of Wales, The Most Reverend John Davies at Brecon Cathedral. Families of both clubs also joined to share the Christmas spirit of singing hymns and the retelling of the Christmas story.
Despite everything that has happened in 2020, the presence of football has been a constant, and often a happy distraction. The success of the team has been down to the togetherness, support and willingness to take on new challenges. We would like to thank all the members of the team for their humour, support and devotion as well as our coaches Kaiyo and Max who regularly put up with our puzzled faces when we’re being explained a new drill in training. We would also like to thank Bromley FC who continue to support us as part of their community scheme. Their commitment to everyone – regardless of age, gender or ability – being able to play football is exemplary.
As we move into 2021 we look to build on our achievements in 2020. We will strive to recruit more women, regardless of ability, to join the Belles and continue to help make a difference, however small to the wider community.
Wishing everyone a very happy and healthy new year!
The Bromley Belles Committee