My soccer journey began at age 6 on a co-ed YMCA team with a little pink and green soccer ball. I played a whole season, showed up for every practice and was the only girl on the team. I also was the one who despite being better then some of my teammates (we were six, we all stunk) never got the ball passed to me and got just the minimum amount of playing time to keep it politically correct. The boys avoided me at all costs. I guess also at six I had cooties. Regardless, the experience stuck with me and shaped me into the woman I would become. I knew then that no boy would ever tell me what I could or couldn’t do, especially when it came to sports. The next year an all girls soccer leagues started up at the Y and I commanded our central defense and would play all the way up until high school.
The six year old Andi knew at the time that things weren’t always going to be ‘fair’, but also that I wouldn’t give men an opportunity to not include me anymore. I studied sports, hung out with the guys, learned the rules, followed the teams and made sure that I was just as up on sports as any of my male counterparts.
It isn’t easy being a woman sports fan, but luckily in the past few years I’ve seen a shift coming and a glass ceiling cracking between the boys and the girls, especially in soccer. When I first started going to the bar on Saturday and Sunday mornings I would walk into a bar full of men. Some days I would be the only woman….all morning, there to watch the EPL. I would get some weird looks and some snarky remarks but then I’d start talking and the guys would just listen and drop their guard and I was one of them. Eventually, more and more women started showing up on game days and all of them were just like me. Knowledgeable soccer fans. Despite the fact they had breasts they also knew the game.
Over the past year I’ve also had the honor of serving as acting vice president for our local American Outlaw chapter. It is a really fun group full of amazing men and women and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I also take my position very seriously on a number a of levels. 1)There aren’t many women in leadership positions throughout soccer supporters groups nationwide, yet women coming into the sport is growing every year. Most people probably wouldn’t know that because if you Google women soccer fans, you will get big breasted Brazilians and the ’31 Hottest Women Soccer Fans at the World Cup’. I don’t look at myself as a women in a men’s group. I look at myself as a person in a group and treat both of my men and women compatriots the same, and I think that is what most women soccer fans want regardless. 2) I look at myself and say if I can inspire one woman to join that may be anxious about coming around a group of predominantly men and sharing her soccer knowledge then I have accomplished something. If I can make the game more accessible to even one more person, that is a win.
We as women have a lot to offer a soccer community. I am reminded of that every day when I bring up ideas to my male counterparts and am given the tools to run with them. I do ask this of everyone….
For the men I ask:
That you put your guards down a little if you haven’t already and don’t just assume you know a soccer fan based on gender. While sure sometimes we may all need an ‘Aaron Ramsey Day’ that doesn’t mean we don’t understand offsides, we aren’t following the transfer deadline (which I’m doing right this second), and we can’t school you in our knowledge of the game, because we can.
For the women I ask:
That you take a plunge into the supporters culture. I have traveled for US games with the American Outlaws, have watched games in the Kansas City Cauldron, and now with Indy 11’s Brickyard Battalion and I can honestly say that making up all of those groups are many smart, fun, loud, proud, and yes, sexy females who are always happy to see another familiar female face among the sea of men.
We are embarking on a new dawn of soccer in America and especially here in St. Louis. It will take all of us to build tradition. There is enough room on the ship for everyone! Jump on, hold on tight, and enjoy the ride!
If you are a female soccer fan and would like to communicate with other female soccer fans please find us on Facebook at Louligan Ladies https://www.facebook.com/groups/1466756373583039/