Following our Black History Month event on Monday 11 October, we caught up with a couple of the attendees regarding their role(s) in the game, how did they come to be involved in grassroots football, and if there were or is any role models that inspired them to get involved.
We spoke with Cheshire FA Inclusion Advisory Board Member and volunteer Director of the Grounds Management Association Kimiyo and also with Ugo, who is Chairman and Secretary of Chester-based football club Crossway; a Christian club playing in the Chester & Wirral League.
Kimiyo shared how she became involved in grassroots football:
“I have been a football fan since Steve Perryman scored two goals against AC Milan in the UEFA Cup semi-final. My younger sister supported West Ham and my best friend supported QPR and as the only three girls we knew who liked football we watched each other’s teams as well as our own. In those days girls didn’t play or coach or referee so the terraces were our only involvement.
“When I started working in local government I was involved in sports development and facilities from a data analysis perspective and embarked on equality and diversity studies in London Boroughs and this continued as a theme throughout my career. I was involved in commissioning playing pitch strategies and sat on the Football Foundation panel looking at grass roots applications. I am now a volunteer Director of the Grounds Management Association and have a passion for the importance of pitches and pitch management to enhance football for all.”
“In 2006, the current manager (for Crossway FC) spotted me playing football down the park with the youth group where I was a youth leader. He asked if I’d be interested in joining and 15 years later I’m the chair…ha!”
Both spoke about roles model who inspired them, Kimiyo said:
“Garth Crooks chaired the Football Foundation panel I sat on and the Lottery Panel where I was involved in grant making for a number of years. Garth showed me how to be a powerful voice for inclusion.”
“I was never able to do football as a kid, because I used to play in an orchestra. So I missed out big-style on starting grassroots earlier. As a Birmingham city fan, there were lots of players I used to love watching such as Ricky Otto, Dominguez, David Dunn.
“But from a more personal point of view, I used to love watching the likes of Johnny Barnes and Paul Parker on TV…and even Ugo Ehiogu, although I can’t say that out loud because he was a Villa player.
“It’s interesting now, because I’m good friends with John Barnes; my wife doesn’t quite understand what a big deal that is!”
We also asked both ‘What does Black History Month mean to them’?
“The month remains a super important vehicle and opportunity to speak about Black excellence, without feeling judged, under pressure, or out of place. I do look forward to that just being the norm for everyone in the UK.
“I went to what I believe was the first iteration of this event (Cheshire FA BHM events in 2017), and to see so many people at this one so many years later; especially so many black faces, was a real joy!
“The event (2021) was really varied, humorous, great content, awesome compere, diverse panel with lots of different and varied experiences….a great evening. I was only sad I couldn’t get there earlier and stay later, to build on my networks.”
“I have long memories of BHM, going back 30 years. Now is the time for sport and football in particular to take centre stage and reach new and growing audiences for the messages of BHM.”
We thank both for taking the time to share their story and thoughts with Cheshire FA.