Katy Castle - Goal Diggers FC
I’m Katy Castle, I live in London and play football several times a week as part of Goal Diggers Football Club (GDFC) – a non-profit grassroots London club set up by Fleur Cousens in 2015. The aim of the club is to make football more available and accessible to all women and non-binary people regardless of previous experience or ability, and to create an environment where everyone feels welcome and encouraged. We have a weekly training session and play in several leagues. A typical week for me would be to play 5 aside on Mondays or 7 aside on Tuesdays and go to training on Wednesdays, and in the winter there’s 11 aside on Saturdays. I didn’t start playing football until I was 18 so I’m always trying to learn, trying to improve. It’s highly addictive.
Who is in the photos?
They are all Goal Diggers (GDFC football players) before, during and after a match – they are all friends.
Where were the photos taken?
The photos were taken on a sunny Saturday in April on Clapham Common - a camera like this is happiest in the sun, so I was lucky. It was the final 11-aside game of the league and our captain scored an amazing goal from a free kick way out so we were all pretty happy, even if we did lose. The final photo was taken at our Sunday 5 aside league in Southwark – I don’t play in this league but often I come by on my way home to watch the matches and hang out after.
What did you try to show with the photos? Was there any wider meaning with the photos?
A distinctive feature of GDFC is that it is your availability to play that matters, rather than ability. What this creates is a community of footballers who just love football - from those who played a lot growing up, to those who began playing football as adults and those who joined the club as complete beginners. And so I wanted to show both how much football GDFC plays, but, in terms of wider meaning, what it means to be a Goal Digger; the community itself.
What is your favourite photo?
My favourite is with all the players on each other’s shoulders putting up the net. It so neatly depicts what I wanted to portray, GDFC as a community of players who support each other. I felt bad that I wasn’t helping but I needed to be an observer so I could take the photo. I don’t think I need to explain it more – you can just look and see for yourself.
Are there any good stories connected with the people you photographed?
I was trying to photograph a community rather than individuals, but a good example of this community would be Gaia, who is standing in the GDFC cap in my favourite photo, looking up. She broke her foot really badly and it’s taken months to heal – but still she came along to matches – and you can see her here involved and supporting the others.
What are the opportunities for female footballers in London / UK?
I can only really speak from my experience, which is as someone who started playing football as an adult and mostly in London. I played a bit at university, but afterwards I found it hard to find a club in London where someone of my ability could get enough coaching and game time to improve at football. A big problem grassroots clubs have is a lack of affordable pitch space to play on in London; this stops clubs being able to train and expand.
That said, there are opportunities to play in London; we play against other women and non-binary teams and clubs in the leagues we’re in. It’s really a case of trying different teams out and working out what fits you best. And if there isn’t anything, start something yourself.
What role does football play in British society?
A big one, of course! But it is mainly football played by men that plays this big part. I am excited for the Women’s World Cup in June. It’ll be interesting, but probably not that surprising, to see how it is portrayed in the media. We aren’t expecting the Lionesses to have as much as support as England men’s team did last summer, but we’re hopeful and we’ll be out supporting.
What does football mean to you?
I am a footballer player first, and a football fan second. I don’t even really support a team...other than GDFC. While I'm playing football, I'm thinking about football; I can't think about anything else. It’s an escape from the little stresses and distractions that fill my head all the rest of the time. Also, it’s fun to run really, really fast; I’m a defender and my best trick is simply to outpace an attacking player and get the ball off them.
What is the future for UK women's football?
I’d like to say that the future is that things are changing and moving in a direction where there are more opportunities for women and non-binary people to play football, more funding, more pitch space…but it’s much harder to change attitudes. My friend recently got asked to leave a football game because a referee said it was ‘clearly implied’ that her work football team was for men only. He refused to let the game go ahead unless she got off the pitch, even though both the teams were happy for her to play.