Arsenal Ladies, doing it for the girls – Gunners Fair

As a creative writer who adores football, a weekly column on a quality website with top Gooners combines two loves perfectly. Though I do write and edit for various other websites and blogs on different topics including football, I’m excited and honoured that Dave approached me to be part of the team of a new-look ‘Welcome To The Gunner’s Town.’ Here’s to a great collaboration!

What does a North London team in the English Premier League and a 24-year-old girl from Mumbai, India have in common? Nothing. Except an inexplicable bond that’s lasted for 11 years running and continues to grow stronger even now.

Why do I even care about a team that is thousands of miles away in another country? Simply put, it wasn’t a choice, this feeling that suddenly crept up on me but felt like it had been there for years. It was more of a compulsion, a longing, a need to watch those 11 men in red and white play and fill a part of my life that I hadn’t even realised was missing. It’s got everything to do with what feels like a missing limb during off-season and those even worse international breaks.

I’m a Gooner girl who is madly in love with the beautiful game. I would much rather watch a game, go to a game or play the sport than go shopping. Football takes precedence over most social events and I’ve accepted the late nights (time difference means we watch Champions League matches past midnight), the euphoric highs, the shattering lows and numbing frustrations that come with the territory of being a fan.

One of my favourite parts about being a fan (apart from the obvious) is the massive global family you’re a part of, a network of people from all around the world whose experiences, however varied and different, you can still relate to. We all know how hard it is to be a female in a male-dominated sport. I’ve said all I’ve wanted on the topic a few months ago. But I would also like to reiterate that there are plenty of good guys out there. I wouldn’t be here if not for the continued support and faith of all the ones who gave me the chance and encouragement to write on their websites and blogs starting back in 2008 for Apnafootball to Football Paradise to as recently as a few months ago when I wrote my first piece for Dave’s 1 Nil Down 2 One Up, a blog I respect greatly.

This is a platform for the female fan perspective on all things Arsenal, for all the thoughts, experiences and opinion of Goonerettes everywhere. It is also a place to create more awareness and give more due to our hugely successful female counterparts in the Arsenal Ladies. So please do not hesitate to contact me on Twitter if you wish to guest write on this column, I welcome and appreciate your experiences and views.

So without further adieu, here is the debut of ‘Women’s Arsenal and Arsenal’s Women.’

I have to be honest when I say that it’s been just over a year since I began seriously following the exploits of the Arsenal Ladies Football Club. Until then, I was aware enough to know about their successes but never took an active interest. All that changed when I happened to catch one of their televised games (I don’t even remember who the opponent was but it was an Arsenal win). The year culminated in a two part article (you can read it here and here) that was my tribute to a team that deserves as much support and interest as the men’s team.

For the uninitiated, the FA Women’s Premier League (that continues to play the winter season) was converted into the second division league in 2011 to allow for the formation of the Women’s Super League (WSL), an elite summer league that is now the top-tier for women’s football in the United Kingdom. The WSL is founded on the same operatives as the rugby’s Super League, aka no promotion or relegation and runs from April to October. All teams in all divisions and leagues play in the FA Women’s Cup, while the FA League Cup is only for the Women’s Premier League and its two regional divisions. The WSL participants on the other hand take part in the FA WSL Continental Cup which is held after the league season, and the WSL winners and runners-up play in the Women’s Champions League which again starts before the Super League season.

Under new manager Shelley Kerr, the team is performing. They have booked their place in the FA Cup final versus Bristol Academy on May 26, and begun their defence of the Continental Cup (which has a group stage for the quarter-finals since 2012) with a 1-1 away draw versus Lincoln at Sincil Bank. This year, due to unexpectedly adverse weather conditions in March and April, Arsenal began their defence of the WSL only on Tuesday, May 7, 2013 with a surprising and unlikely 4-0 home loss against Liverpool. The Merseyside visitors had gone into half time with a goal lead, and killed the game off with three goals in seven minutes in the second half.

After having won the first two WSLs (including setting the record last season for being the first WSL team to complete an unbeaten season), the ladies have a lot to live up to as they aim for a 10th straight league title. The dream of a Champions League trophy might be over for the season after they were knocked out in the semis by Wolfsburg, but the aim of a treble is there for the taking. In spite of kicking the season off with their first league defeat in 21 months, the team has enough depth, motivation and experience to quickly pick themselves up. The win for Liverpool also highlights the increasing competitiveness of the league, something both Kerr and the Arsenal Ladies acknowledge. It can only be good for the growth and popularity of the women’s game.

That’s all from me today; hope you enjoyed this first installment! I’d just like to reiterate that anyone interested in contributing or being a guest writer on this column is more than welcome to get in touch with me on Twitter. Until next Thursday. Clear Eyes. Full Hearts. Can’t Lose.

Anushree Nande

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