PENALTY meets Olympia Infinity FC, the team built purely on community.
I receive a text, “We’re here!” and a second later my phone buzzes with a live location that pinpoints me to the centre of the park where a group of people are standing there wrapped up warm and laughing with each other.
Everyone is in the complete kit; even Grandma and Olympia Infinity (the baby who I’d soon meet and learn to understand the team was aptly named after). The whole team has basically shown up for the interview and photoshoot on this dreary Saturday afternoon in East London. The true sign of a dedicated community that loves to spend time with each other not just on the pitch.
I’ve never met any of the team before, but they all have a warming demeanour and everyone cheerfully says hello. We have a quick chat whilst I set my camera up and goalkeeper and outfield player Ally kindly offers to stand in front of the camera whilst I set my lighting. “We are all friends who have become part of a community through this team, we all have played and still do play for other teams in similar leagues,” they explain, “we all love playing for Olympia Infinity.”
Ally is wearing their pristine white goalkeeper kit and it leads to a conversation about goalkeeping and Chloe Morgan who I interviewed recently. Ally tells me that Chloe has been down to coach the team before and it’s moments like this that I realise even the most prominent figures in the women’s game are just human beings who are kind and like to share their experiences and expertise with others.
Co-Founder Varsha explains that everything she has learnt from Chloe and others has become something valuable that she has been able to pass on to people that want to grow within the game. “Since having my child, it has become difficult to offer as much coaching as I’d like, but I try my best,” she explains. “There are so many children and even adults who want to be trained in goalkeeping, it’s impossible to keep up.” Varsha also tells me that some people can’t afford to pay for coaching, so she kindly gives up her time to underprivileged children who will benefit from what she can offer so that they can fulfil their dreams.
Varsha learnt everything she knew about football as a young person with big dreams, but she came from a Mauritian background and was not allowed to play football. “The culture and society I grew up in sadly took the dream of playing football away from me and it took me moving to the UK to make them happen. I now play and coach the sport I love,” she explains.
Co-Founders, Varsha and Paola are one of three couples who are part of the Olympia Infinity community. They see the community they've built as a place to empower anyone who wants to play football with them. “We want to create a legacy that will hopefully live forever or at least that's the dream. A legacy that will allow every woman or LGBTQ+ person to play this wonderful game and feel and be themselves without any prejudice. No one should be told that they cannot play football.”
We talk about what is needed in order to grow the women’s and LGBTQ+ game and the answer is not dissimilar to most of the progressive teams that I’ve spoken to. “Although a debate is happening at higher levels, such as FIFA, we can do something at our level. Trans players are a rare reality in teams and should be encouraged more. Teams should be louder and do more to give access to anyone who wants to play football, encourage diversity, and support families and groups. We need to start with teams of young girls. Girls should grow up seeing diverse groups of women training and playing in clubs. Football is about creating dreams. We must inspire young girls and give them heroines to emulate of any ethnicity and sexual orientation.”
Find more from Olympia Infinity FC here.