By Faniki Deche, Second Year, Politics and International Relations
Club Captain Sarah-Jane Feeley and Vice Club Captain Bea Vargas talk to Epigram about the importance of joining sports societies, their reaction to the Women’s World Cup and what lies ahead for them.
The natural aura of inclusivity from the shared love of football was what hooked Sarah-Jane and Bea Vargas to UBWFC. The duo had contrasting paths to football: Sarah-Jane had plenty of previous playing experience, whilst Bea’s background meant she had little engagement with women’s football.
Reflecting on her path to football, Sarah-Jane commented: 'I've always played football from quite a young age and I knew it was something that I always wanted to continue at university […] I just loved the vibe of the club and everyone in there was so friendly. I knew pretty much instantaneously that this was something I wanted to be a part of.'
Bea's experience was different. 'I never really had a chance to properly play football as a sport as I was growing up. In Spain, it was seen as quite boyish and not feminine. But I did enjoy watching it.'
'UBWFC has been by far the highlight of my university experience. There’s a huge sense of community and a shared love and passion for the sport whilst being very inclusive.'
Besides inclusivity, UBWFC and other sports societies also bring a sense of discipline and an easy pathway toward friendships for Freshers. Regarding the value of sports societies, Sarah-Jane mentioned how 'it’s a great way to meet people with a guaranteed common interest.'
'There is something empowering about being part of a group of women that are working together [...] you have something to turn up for in training. The fact is you have to show up and be committed.'
'You are guaranteed to get to know people over time because you see each other so regularly. It’s guaranteed that you are going to form really strong friendships.'
Bea added: 'Joining a sports society as a Fresher is kind of a bulletproof way of making friends because you are going to spend so much time with them. From a couple of days a week to five days a week, such as the 1s, we basically train every day.'
'I’ve met my closest friends playing football and I believe there’s a place for anyone to fit in at UBWFC.'
The phrase 'come so far but we’ve got so far to go' best describes UBWFC’s reaction to the Women’s World Cup. The quality of women’s football was obvious during the Cup, but so was its litany of issues.
Speaking as a Spaniard, Bea commented that 'it was refreshing to see many people tune in to watch the final, like how we saw the Lionesses win the Euros last summer.'
'The impact it had on little girls wanting to play football and the media traction and even us at UBWFC increasing membership we had. [...] It shouldn’t take a team to win the World Cup to be finally listened to by its own country and to finally get the attention it deserves.'
Despite recently winning the BUCS Premier Division South, the Bristol SU Team of the Year and representing the UK at the European Universities Sports Association Football Championships, Sarah-Jane explains some of the setbacks UBWFC has faced.
'We’ve had some of our BUCS matches interrupted by men’s teams encroaching on the field of play or we’ve been given poor pitch allocations in favour of men’s sides […] Even in the recent tournament in Albania, the men’s tournament was eleven aside whilst the women’s was seven aside.'
'Mentally it was quite challenging while we were there, as it was a prestigious event but we did feel like the women’s competition wasn’t deemed to be as important.'
However, it has been their springboard towards greater success as they have continued 'to push themselves' and 'make sure they are succeeding as best as they can.'
'So it therefore becomes difficult to ignore that we deserve to be taken seriously.”
It looks like it's working. But now it is also up to the supporting institutions to bolster the obvious talent present.
Currently, UBWFC is expanding whilst still accounting for its ethos in inclusivity. It has entered its 4s into the Gloucestershire County Women’s Football League.
'Unfortunately, we weren’t able to enter more teams into BUCS so it is a really good way of getting more players more game time. It’s on a Sunday so different to BUCS so it allows people who play for BUCS teams to also support the 4s.'
Clearly, this is a growing squad of winners that knows its ethos. This is a team to keep an eye on — if not fully be a part of.
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