Friday, 26 May 2017

Rovertown Dynamos vs. Mogford Juniors - a story about the camaraderie of football

A story about football.
The title page for the story. The main character's name is Bernie.
Rovertown Dynamos vs. Mogford Juniors is one of three illustrated stories I wrote and illustrated for a children's book published by The Neuro Foundation - a charity that supports people of all ages with Neurofibromatosis.

The Neuro Foundation wanted the book to be warm and life affirming and for one of the stories to be about bullying (they had requests about the other stories but I will talk about them another time).

At first I was worried about how I could write about bullying in a positive context and then I thought about setting the story in a football team.

I should point out that I know very little about the game of football, although I have been around football fans all my life somehow the game itself washes over me. However, my partner Mark Panton and our daughter have shown me something I can relate to - the positive side of the culture of football. They are both fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC in South London, a non-league club that goes out of its way to be inclusive and supportive of all kinds of people. Our daughter is autistic and has mild learning difficulties. She has been watching Dulwich Hamlet matches with Mark since she was very small and has been able to have a level of independence and interaction during the games that is difficult to achieve elsewhere. Both on and off the pitch there is warmth and camaraderie; my daughter is safe to wander around during matches and no one judges her.

It occurred to me that if a football player was insulted during a match their team would immediately rally round to support them. This was the starting point for Rovertown Dynamos vs. Mogford Juniors.

The teams in my story are both made up of girls. There are lots of stories about boys playing football and I feel that girls are too often overlooked. I know from experience with my daughter that girls can be passionate about the game and that there aren't enough opportunities for them to play. In my small way I am trying redress the balance a little by showing girls being good at football and being taken seriously.

The moments of emotion that are in any game of football helped drive my story along.

I won't give away the plot except to say that the main character has Neurofibromatosis and she is teased by an opponent because of one of the outward signs of the condition. But she is a great goalkeeper, her team help her see that it doesn't matter what others say about her and there is a happy ending.

You can find out about Dulwich Hamlet Football Club on their website and go to the FA website to find out about women's and girl's football.

Many thanks to Mark Panton for advising me on the detail of football games.

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