Peaches FC, a vibrant grassroots football team in East London, has been making waves since it started in 2021. Founded by two friends, their aim was to create a welcoming space for complete beginners, providing opportunities for women and non-binary individuals to enjoy the beautiful game. Their dedication and hard work have paid off, with the team recently celebrating two league victories, showcasing their growth and progress.
During a conversation with Peaches FC defender Alex Hull and the rest of the team, we delved into the importance of accessible grassroots teams. Peaches FC not only promotes skill development and physical fitness but also fosters a supportive community where individuals can find friendship, challenge themselves, and embark on a journey of self-discovery. By offering a safe haven for those previously excluded from the sport, the team embodies the spirit of inclusivity and diversity.
“Everyone has different reasons for joining Peaches FC: to get fit, to make friends, to learn a new skill, to get out the house, to be part of a community, to pick back up a sport that they were once not welcomed in. I can’t speak on behalf of any other Peach but I joined a year ago when I was reaching a bit of an identity crisis. I felt stuck in my career whilst working a very isolating job and I was frustrated. But then, an old friend was posting on Instagram about Peaches FC and it literally looked like they were all having the best time ever. Having played with boys at school until I wasn’t allowed to anymore (a common story in women’s football), I was intrigued; I dropped her a line and was instantly invited to come along to an open training. At that session, every person made the effort to introduce themselves to me and even though my passing was a bit rough around the edges, there was so much encouragement and positivity, which makes a massive difference to your confidence, especially as a beginner. It’s embarrassing to admit, but the uplifting feeling I felt when I left was unreal. From that point on, I was hooked. It may sound cliché, but you really get so much more out of it than a football game: Peaches FC is a vibrant community and an uplifting space to challenge yourself whilst having the best time ever and to top that off, it’s with the best people ever too.” - Alex Hull.
How did your PEACHES FC start and what inspired you to start a grassroots football team?
During Covid, two Peaches were on a walk and noticed large groups of men playing football everywhere. We were so jealous! To be able to get together, be active, make new friends and exercise some healthy competition in matches seemed like such an appealing luxury to us. So we thought fuck it, let’s start our own team! We’d never played football before and at the time, other teams hosting trainings were only opening up spaces to players of a certain level, so starting from the ground up felt like the best option. It was also really important for us to start a team for complete beginners so that everyone who joined had a safe space to get involved in a sport which has historically been inaccessible to women.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a women's/non-binary grassroots football team, and how do you overcome them?
Finding football pitches and spaces to train which are both available and affordable has been quite a challenge. Men’s leagues have dominated these spaces for years and their leagues (which have been running much longer than ours) tend to block book pitches. Luckily, the league that we play in, The Goalposts League, means we get to play matches on proper football pitches. But we are still training on a free community pitch that we just rock up to and keep our fingers crossed that no one else has got there before us! In summer, we also like to train in local parks which is always a great money saver.
How do you promote inclusivity and diversity within your team and encourage people from different backgrounds to participate?
Ensuring that Peaches FC is an inclusive and diverse team has been super important to us from the start. We champion a warm and welcoming team spirit, ensuring that any newcomers feel included and excited to be training with us, which usually helps to ensure that they keep coming back. We have a welfare officer in place to allow our players to voice any concerns that they have anonymously. Playing in The Goalposts League has also been really important for us because they have genuinely created a safe space for women and non-binary teams and have created an inclusive, diverse community in grassroots football which we are grateful to be a part of. We have mothers in our team and the league encourages them to participate and bring along their children, who always make the best (and often most vocal) supporters on the side-lines!
Can you share some memorable moments or achievements?
We’ve just won our Thursday and Sunday leagues which has been a massive achievement for us. We’ve all worked really hard to improve our skills and how we play together and it has paid off! Other big moments include: our first-ever win, our first tournament, being filmed by the BBC for the women’s Euros, watching women’s matches together, watching the Lionesses win the Euros, getting to the semi-finals in Victoria Park Vixens tournament, our first birthday party where family and friends celebrated with us with an awards ceremony and speeches. There are so many moments – big and small – that it would be impossible to name them all!
Are there any specific goals or aspirations that your team has for the future?
To keep improving, keep winning and keep playing! If we could get to a position where we could fund training and league spaces so that the game was even more accessible to as many people as possible, that would be a dream! And to have our own dedicated training space that was paid for. We’re also keen to do some touring so if Barcelona FC Women’s team are reading this, our DMs are open. Jokes aside, to play outside of London with teams across the country (and maybe the world), so that we can play football in cool places and share our experiences as widely as possible, that would be incredible.
What advice would you give to other women or girls who are interested in starting their own grassroots football team?
Just do it! It will be the best decision you ever make for yourself. And work together – on and off the pitch – as it can be a lot of organising but it is 100% worth it.
See more from Peaches FC on their Instagram.
Photography: Jonathan Tomlinson.