In Conversation with The Goalposts League’s founder Shameek Farrell

Tom Williams



There’s nothing better than picking up your studs on a crisp, golden morning and pinging a ball around with mates in an organised community. It’s one of the simplest pleasures for many football fans and an experience that should be readily available for everyone. In a shamefully male-dominated sport, this seemingly easy delight is not as attainable as it should be.

In founding The Goalposts League, Shameek Farrell’s mission statement is to cultivate a community that allows for women and non-binary people to experience this joy.

As many know, these environments provide much more than a nice bit of turf to have a kickabout on. They operate as a safe space to meet new people and are a positive arena to release stress and increase mental wellbeing.

PENALTY caught up with Shameek to get to know the brains behind The Goalposts League, which has now launched a Player Network to attract even more marginalised people to the beautiful game.

In a nutshell, how would you describe the mission of The Goalposts League?

Over the last few years, grassroots football has drastically become monopolised, and the focus on developing grassroots football for women and non-binary individuals has become stagnant. We want to reclaim the game that we know and love by making purposeful strides by helping to develop the game further, break barriers, raise awareness, and create a nurturing, community-orientated league where players can grow and play the beautiful game.

What inspired you to form the league?

The idea behind the league came from my experience working within women's football as a coach and then starting Coats & Goalposts back in 2017. I had all these insights, which gave me a deep understanding of what's needed within our game. After toying with the idea for a couple of years, I felt now was the time to enforce change and provide a positive outlet. The League represents so much more than just turn up, playing football, and then going home. Community, collaboration, and positive mental wellness are the leagues' focal points, and those three components are what make it unique, and the teams involved embody and support our mission statement.

What is the recently launched Player Network?

The Player Network is essentially a hub that connects players with teams. Through conversations and research, I noticed that some people found it a daunting prospect to join a new team, especially if they were new to the game or if they hadn't played in a while. We find out their ability, what desirables they may have, and we connect those dots for them. We have already helped over 20 players find teams, and we're looking forward to connecting with more players and growing our network.

How do you hope the Player Network will help The Goalposts League, and larger, community?

The Player Network is having a positive effect not only on the individuals who find teams or the teams that find new players from the network, but also the wider community is benefiting from it. There is still a high drop-off rate where young girls, and women completely stop playing, and we

want to reduce those drop-off levels and help grow participation levels in London and beyond. If we can inspire others to keep playing, they will inspire others to do the same, and so on, and so on.

How important is it to champion safe spaces such as this for women and the non-binary community – on and off the field?

We must continue to champion these safe spaces. Showing support and raising awareness towards positive institutions that provide nurturing environments that enable women and non-binary individuals to play football is imperative. Many teams up and down the country are doing great work with minimal support, no financial backing but continue to persevere out of sheer love of the game and the people they directly work with, week-in-week-out.

How do you hope running off-pitch mindfulness classes (and others) will aid what you are trying to achieve?

Player welfare is a top priority for us, and our wellness program is designed to give people the recourse to be more kind to themselves. Physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand, and sometimes in life, there is an imbalance between the two which ultimately affects one's performance and general happiness. Football is a much-needed outlet for all, but equally, we understand the stresses of day-to-day life can be quite overwhelming. This space allows everyone to reset, realign, and rejuvenate their hearts and minds.

What does the league mean to you personally?

This is going to sound very cliche, but for me, The Goalposts League means everything. It represents so much than just football. Seeing the positive impact that we have had on people's lives both on and off the pitch is immensely rewarding, and I am so proud of the barriers that we have broken, how well it's been received within the grassroots community, and what we're working towards for the future.

Are there any notable stories, or moments you’ve encountered, that speaks to how important the league is to members?

In our short existence, I have encountered so many memorable moments and stories that validate the reasons why The Goalposts League is needed and valued. One common theme to note is that the league is a refreshing outlet, and the level of care and attention to detail is something that teams and players have not encountered before. Seeing all players play with such freedom and with a smile on their face's week-in-week-out gives me the utmost joy. Players often message to say how much they enjoy playing in our league, and I am equally grateful for them trusting me and believing in the dream.

What would you say to people thinking about joining as a team? Or those maybe who are simply looking for a team to begin with?

Easy! I'd say sign up! Whether you're a new team or old, or a player wanting to get back into the game, or you want to learn how to play, we've got you covered. This space is for you, to show up as you are, and we provide your weekly wholesome vibes.

What do you think the biggest issues facing the non-binary community are at the moment? And how does The Goalposts League aim to help this?

The biggest issue that I've found is that there aren't many alternative spaces that openly accommodate, encourage or support non-binary teams and players to play. I find myself asking what

more can we do? Firstly, we must continue to have these conversations, listen to learn, and work closely with these communities to help break those barriers. I feel like we're heading in the right direction, but there's a lot more that needs to be done to help create an even playing field for all.

What's next for The Goalposts League?

We've got some exciting plans for 2022 and beyond and we want you all to be a part of the journey. We plan to facilitate two new intermediate divisions and expand to a brand-new venue to help increase team participation levels. We also have a few tournaments lined up throughout the year, and lastly, we are creating a U16 girls league for local teams and schools to help create a sustainable pathway for young girls to stay involved in the game both on and off the pitch. We will help provide work opportunities within the creative industry and mentoring for all players involved.

There are a few more exciting things in the pipeline, but they will come to light soon so keep your eyes peeled.

- Sign up to the Player Network here, and follow The Goalposts League on Insta here.

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