Meet The Wrayvens: Wray Crescent’s women’s football team
We know many Wray Crescent park users already quietly support our very own women’s football team, the mighty Wrayvens. When we heard they’d won their first Islington Women’s League (IWL) match it seemed a really good time to catch up with them.
Who are the Wrayvens?
The Wrayvens are a grass roots group consisting of perhaps two or three dozen players who get together to play football every Sunday morning in Wray Crescent and participate in the IWL.
Founder members Katharine and Claire brought the group together. I caught up with Katharine to find out why they did:
“I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about girls and football,” Katharine told me.
“Because all the time girls are told by boys that girls don’t play football. They may try to get involved but they have no confidence. So, I made my daughters join an after-school Easter football camp – they didn’t want to – and I was shocked that we turned up, the few girls made a kind of protective bubble in the middle and the boys all ran on, grabbed balls and were kicking them around and being active.
“The girls had no confidence.
“There was this dad at the school running the Adamant FC football camp and I met Taedza there. We just kept on having conversations about women and football and the need for role models and things like that.”
The spark happened when a male parent put out a message through a WhatsApp group searching for other fathers to form a football group.
“It got up my nose,” said Katharine . “So, I just said we should form a women’s football group.”
She got together with a like-minded parent called Claire and they began having a kick about, and got many others involved, including Taedza and later Peter who began to train the women together.
Who shows up to games?
On average around 15-20 team members show up to train every Sunday, usually with a handful of other members who can’t play but want to support their teammates.
When I visited the Sunday session, I spoke with Naomi and Alexis on the sidelines, they weren’t playing that day. “Quite a lot of the women who play have never even watched football or even been football fans,” they told me.
It was interesting watching people grow into a game mentality.
“When everyone started playing it was interesting as we all began by being super nice to reach other. I think one thing we had to learn is to stop saying sorry, apologising when we tackle each other.”
There are already rising stars in the team.
Lizzy plays defence and has become a key asset to the team. She played for Arsenal’s youth team and brought a wealth of knowledge and support to her teammates – and delivers great pep talks when spirits sag.
‘There’s always progress’
Peter is one of the two men training the women.
A highly experienced footballer himself, he tells me he gets a lot out of training the team. “The silver lining is coming to train these guys,” he told me.
Is he pleased with them?
“Yeah. With these there’s always progress.
“There’s never been digression with these guys. I think it’s because they’re all friendly with each other, so it’s not your standard football thing, they care more. At the same time, they are concentrating on what’s being taught to them and their game is going on. I try to give them the knowledge I’ve got,” he said.
No experience required
Perhaps it reflects the inherent bias against women in this sport that those taking part in the Wrayvens club include some who’ve played before and many who’ve never really kicked a ball.
“It’s a really good mix of people who’ve never played before and others who’ve played a little when they were younger, and there’s a really good mix of ages,” I was told.
“I like it because it’s really inclusive and welcoming and not scary, because my experience of sport at school wasn’t particularly positive,” Katharine told me.
“I think it’s hard if the experience has been like that to get involved in later life. I think a nice thing about what we’re doing is that its friendly, people come and go and do what they can. There’s no pressure, which I think can intimidate people.”
Don’t mistake the friendliness and good humour for weakness — these women are committed to what they are trying to do. Many also take part in the yoga warm-down/recovery session after practice, taught, by Naomi.
Making time to be yourself
Many of the women have kids. When the team first began playing together it wasn’t unusual for players to show up with children in tow. Trainer Taedza said he never saw this with the men’s game.
“It’s really hard on a Sunday morning to say, ‘Sorry, this is really important, but this is my time and I’m going to skip off,” Katharine said.
Just like playing football in the first place, it seems like making time to engage in personal pursuits is also more difficult for women. Things have changed for the Wrayvens, at least, and the women seem to have managed to ring fence time for themselves to play the game, with partners and friends taking over the childcare, but the situation does seem to reflect another layer of challenge women must face engaging in activities of this kind.
All the hard work pays off.
Trainer Taedza is very proud of what the women are achieving: “I am in awe,” he told me.
“It’s not just about football, and it may sound a little cliched, but the Wrayvens show a community spirit that I’ve never experienced before. I have met amazing people through this and for that alone it is a success. The wins are a bonus.”
Joining the league
Joining the Islington Women’s League was a big deal in itself. The women were nervous at first but they are convinced that playing under pressure is helping to improve their game.
“It’s been brilliant,” said Katharine. “I must have been 41 or 42 when I played my first ever match, as I was never sporty at school,” she said. “It’s brilliant that you can make these changes in your thirties or forties and decide to join a league. It’s exciting. We play league games every Tuesday.”
“What I like is that these guys are happy to play together and kind of understand it’s a team effort,” said trainer, Peter. Achieving the first league win has given the team some confidence. But this has been building all year, “They go through the odd defeats and then a win,” said Peter.
That’s how you learn, of course, by playing against teams at a range of different levels and picking up new experience. “They can do it. They’ve got the skill. I’ve seen them use it. It’s about getting them to be confident in that.”
Wrayvens FC play weekly on Sundays from 9.30am at Wray Crescent Park. All abilities are very welcome – and all ages – the team includes players from 20-50+.
The team also want to support Islington Women’s Football FC for supporting women’s football in Islington – find out more about them here.
And, of course, if you want a slower game Wray Crescent also hosts regular walking football sessions in the park.