Grassroots football teams on how the Lionesses changed the game forever

Football team posing for a picture

Female, non-binary and queer teams across London reveal how England’s place in the Euro 2022 final serves as inspiration for a generation of champions to come

Sunday 31 July      By Anastasiia Fedorova     Pictured above: Queerspace FC

The stunning rise of England's Lionesses to the final of Euro 2022 has shown us how football in the 21st century has the potential be: hopeful, queer-friendly and wonderfully community-minded. But as the team prepares to play Germany at Wembley this Sunday, it’s worth remembering that the seeds of this success were sewn in neighbourhood parks and local pitches long before this day. 

Over the past few years, we’ve seen the widespread emergence of grassroots teams – many of which are centred on female, non-binary and queer players who have been reclaiming the sport for themselves. These players are all about mutual support, community and shaking off the age-old gendered prejudices that have beleaguered the beautiful game for generations. 

On the eve of the final (go on you Lionesses!) we talked to players from grassroots teams across London about what football means to them – and why reinvigoration of the game is important, whether the Lionesses win the Euros or not.

‘I’m glad to play for such an inclusive team,’
Lydia Birgani-Nia, player for Baesianz FC


‘Football has always been a part of my life. There were no women’s teams growing up, so I would always train with the boys. I remember around the age of 10 my dad got me a pair of knock off Adidas boots that said ‘David Berkman’ on the tongue which I wore to death. I had a massive obsession with David Beckham growing up, so watching Bend it like Beckham really opened my eyes to women’s football and made me realise how much I love the game.

‘My friend Sarah co-founded Baesianz and mentioned that they were going to a launch a football team for women, trans and non-binary people of Asian heritage and I was like, ‘Sign me up.’ Since joining Baesianz FC, I’ve made a second family. I look forward to going to training every week because I love the team and watching everybody feel more and more confident playing. It’s really important that teams like ours exist – there needs to be wider representation in football and I’m glad to play for such an inclusive team.

‘Football brings community first and foremost, and the drive to really push forward and break the boundaries of a traditionally male-dominated space. It’s also been a huge help to my mental health; I look forward to playing every week and it gives me such a nostalgic feeling, taking me back to my childhood.’

‘It’s vital we keep the excitement for grassroots at its peak,’
Mel Lewis, captain of Wonderkid FC

‘We came together incidentally, after a tweet mistaking the short film Wonderkid – depicting the inner turmoil of a gay footballer – for a football team invited us to a tournament. Taking the mishap as an opportunity, we got a team together and were bonded by the film’s premise: ‘Be yourself’. Trophy wins, friendship, professional ventures, relationships and even babies have been born out of the WKFC family. None of which would have happened if we didn’t have such an open and inclusive dialogue with each other.

‘Alongside our Sunday and Monday matches, we train twice a month. We also get together regularly for social events and support our teammates at their own DJ events or plays. We love competing in tournaments – we travelled to Amsterdam recently to take part in an international event – and plan to get involved in more while competing in both the Super 5 and Goalposts leagues this year.

‘I’m a huge football fan – I’ve been watching and playing since I was about seven, so being a part of Wonderkid really is an amazing way to continue to engage with the sport I love. Everyone starts kicking a ball in the park and I think it’s vital we keep the excitement for grassroots at a peak. Watching the Euros right now and reading the amazing Lionesses’ stories and journeys to the top is so inspiring. For me, grassroots football is where it all begins and it’s so exciting to be a part of.’

‘Through football I feel like I belong to something quite special,’
Oli Lipski, player for Brockwell Bullets FC

‘I loved playing football in primary school and was even on the girls’ football team in Year 7 and 8 in secondary school. However, something happened as a teenager where I just felt like this sport wasn't for me – that it was for ‘boys only’ – and of course socialising and partying became more important. 

‘A friend of mine wanted to set up something where women could socialise outside of drinking. Our team, Brockwell Bullets FC, began with a group of friends and has grown to include friends of friends and newfound friends. We are mostly based in South East London; you'll usually find us playing in Brockwell Park, Peckham Rye and Crystal Palace.

‘Through football I truly feel like I belong to something quite special. Especially in this current climate of women and queer people getting more involved in the game, whereas before it felt so alienating. Mondays are particularly hard, whether it’s after a heavy weekend, or a stressful day back at work – but we always feel incredible after our evening session. It’s a mixture of elation from the endorphins with the warmth from the bonding and supportiveness from your teammates. It has done incredible things for my mental health.’

‘Playing football and having a team gives us all community,’
Queerspace FC 


‘Queerspace FC was established in 2016 to be a radically inclusive space, offering a space for all self-identified queer, lesbian, bi and trans women, trans men, non-binary and intersex people to play football and find community. Our community makes a point not to participate in activities that directly or indirectly support the oppression of other marginalised groups.

‘Playing football and having a team gives us all community – from playing games together and against other teams in friendlies and tournaments, to socialising outside of football and making lasting friendships. It’s important to support grassroots teams as this is where it all begins, at a local level. It is a low-cost, broadly accessible activity and supports wellbeing, mental health and community connection.’ 
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