AND ON THE SEVENTH DAY,
SHE PLAYED SOCCER
On any given weekend in Vancouver, Canada, more than 4000 women compete in the non-professional Metro Women’s Soccer League. Sunday after Sunday, women in the “Classics” divisions push their middle-aged bodies to the limit, for neither fame nor fortune. Why do they do it? This short doc not only answers that question - it will make you want to get out there and join them!
“It’s just a fantastic way to get everything all wrapped up in one little package called soccer."
This is how Irene Cultum, 59, sums up what Sunday soccer means to her, and thousands of women like her. Soccer – or football as it’s known in most of the world – has long been a man’s game. Women have always had to fight to play the “the beautiful game” and on any given weekend, on fields all across the Lower Mainland of BC, you’ll find almost 200 women’s teams, in all their glorious diversity, playing non-professional league soccer - and loving it!
The film focuses on three teams in the “Classics” Divisions of the Metro Women’s Soccer League. Reserved for women over 30, these teams are mostly made up of women in their 40s and 50s, and even 60s - women who grew up in a time before there was a Women’s World Cup to dream of or an Olympic Gold to imagine around the neck, never mind a professional career to work towards.
“Classics” women are from all walks of life, are of every shape and size, of every class and colour. And for 90 minutes every Sunday, all of that fades away. For 90 minutes on a Sunday, they are footballers, united on the pitch by their love of the game. I know because I am one of those women. Growing up in Scotland in the 1970s it didn’t even cross my mind that I could be a footballer in a country whose national sport was reserved for only half the nation. Nearly 30 years later, however, I discovered the Metro Women’s Soccer League and have been playing with passion in it for the last 15 years.
My original intent with this film was threefold. One, I wanted to bring visibility to these women – to their commitment to themselves, to their commitment to each other, and to their commitment to building the women’s game at this level. Two, I wanted to celebrate their love of the game and in that way give back to the game that has given me so much. And three, I wanted to challenge some of the mutually reinforcing and restrictive notions of what real women and real footballers should be.
The challenges I faced in trying to achieve this intent were all great lessons for a first time filmmaker. I didn’t (yet) have the skills, time, or gear necessary to execute some of the ideas in my head – close-up shots of intricate footwork, spectacular goals or saves captured with a steady frame, a slow build-up of noise and activity as we moved through the stages of a Sunday game at this do-it-yourself level. I didn’t fully anticipate the challenges of filming live games (missed it!), or intercutting footage from two games one week apart, or the beautiful sunshine two Sundays in November in Vancouver – unheard of – when driving rain and howling wind had been fairly anticipated to add to the drama.
None of these challenges detracted from what was ultimately a joyous and engaging filmmaking experience, however. I had great support from the league, from the teams, and from the women whose stories I explored. Recent promotional campaigns – such as the She Can’t Be It If She Can’t See It campaign from the Irish government – make it clear that in spite of progress, girls and women still face multiple barriers when it comes to sports, globally and locally. All of those involved in the film were keen to see themselves, and the sport they love, celebrated on screen.