Belén Bale reflects on the value of team sport in the light of PCWAFC’s Cuppers win.
Before coming to Pembroke, I hadn’t played football since the age of 7. This was not without reason, as during a match against a neighbouring primary school I had taken out three of their team by tripping over my feet, had cried when anyone tried to tackle me, and had almost broken my nose on the goalpost.
Scarred by this experience, I promised never to play football again, no matter how fun Bend it like Beckham made it seem. Yet somehow, here I am in goal for Pembroke Women’s team: 5’ 3”, in shorts far too big for me, and ever so slightly shit.
When I went to the first training session October, still disgustingly hungover from bop and in yoga leggings, I was prepared for something chilled and gentle - something to reassure my mum about when she phoned asking if I was being a ‘responsible and healthy individual’. Instead, I found myself running around in a bib, shouting names at random because I still wasn’t sure who everyone was, and desperately attempting to dribble - but it was the most chill I’d felt all week.
Phoebe Flatau, wing, Amy Arnell, wing, and Bélen Bale, defence
In the mess of Cambridge, everyone is always saying how important it is to relax. When you have three essays due on the same day, this can feel impossible. But training with the team gives you so much perspective. Even in the high stress of a match, you lose yourself in what you’re doing. Cheesy as it may be, playing football has helped me so much in the art of not caring, which I find so empowering. It gives you confidence. The kind of aggressive confidence that makes you want to ask questions in supervisions, go for a role on the JPC, get a quesadilla instead of cheesy chips at the Van of Life, and generally just smash the patriarchy. It’s also an incredibly supportive environment. As fresher Tasha says, “I love the sociability of the team. Everyone is so lovely and super-encouraging, no matter what skills (or in my case, lack thereof) you may bring.” Even if you never quite master the basic skill of passing the ball with the side of your foot, you still feel valued. Seeing us win the Cuppers semi-final against Tit Hall was tense to say the least, but the amount of support and love there was amazing. If you missed a pass or messed up on goal, you could just laugh and move on (but you better move on quickly otherwise Katie might just kill you).
Hannah Short, mid, and Gaia Laidler, defence
For me, that solidarity is what makes us win. We are unapologetically feminist about our team, never forgetting that women’s sport is not as widely televised as men’s. Playing with women who don’t care about the stereotypes of what is or isn’t a traditionally male sport is liberating and encouraging. When I drunkenly asked Gaia in Lola’s what it felt like to be a part of PCWAFC, she looked at me said “Bel, I turn myself on.” And honestly, this made perfect sense. •
Bélen Bale is a first year HSPS student and on our editorial team