Wednesday 6 July 2022 is the start of the #UEFAWomensEuro competition, hosted this year by England. And if you are a football fan, disappointed that this year’s #FootballWorldCup will not take place until the winter months (running 21 November to 18 December 2022 due to it being hosted in Qatar), then you will be relieved to hear that there will still be plenty to cheer about over the coming weeks. And of course for many of us, with France being our adopted home, we have two teams to cheer on … until they play each other!
But what if watching the game on your telly box isn’t how you get your kicks (literally!). What if what you really want, is to play yourself, to get your kids involved with a local club, or even get involved with a club as a supporter or volunteer (bénévole).
For many, leaving behind friends and family is the toughest part about moving to France, and for some, integrating into their new communities can be a real challenge. Especially for those for whom the French language still presents an uphill struggle.
Local Sports Clubs can be a fantastic place to get involved with your local community, to make new friends, and if you are so inclined, to get active at the same time. There is so much to be said for the sense of community that a local sports team can offer.
As a hockey player myself, and with my partner being a ‘Rugby Man’ as they are known about these parts, we both understand the value of having a sporting family. In fact my hockey family is about the only thing I miss about my life in the UK.
Whilst there is a rugby team in almost every village in this region, hockey teams (certainly in the Dordogne and Lot et Garonne) are simply non-existent. And whilst it is not quite the same as my hockey family in the UK, I did, after eight years in France, take the plunge and start a little club! We are a small band of merry players of distinctly mixed ability, but we have fun, and often share beer and snacks – what we affectionately call our hockey teas – after each session.
Whilst on the pitch we are arch-rivals going at it hammer and tongues for about 90minutes (give or take!), but with a beer in our hands afterwards we are the best of friends. And when the ball-chasing is done, we exchange tales of our latest exploits, we discuss the merits of our lives in France, we support each other, we laugh at each other and we laugh with each other. I am definitely in my happy place when I am with this motley crew.
As for my partner and his rugby team, they get involved in events, organising the Bodega in the village each year, and play a huge role in the Medieval Festival when that comes to town.
Hundreds of supporters turn out every week to watch them play, they socialise in the stands and come together later in the beloved club house.
When we had to travel back to the UK under very sad circumstances, the team created a GoFundMe page to help us pay to get all the family back there at short notice.
They came together in our time of need and gave us a huge hug. We felt their support, and it helped, a lot.
And that in a nutshell, is sport, and what a sporting family can do to enhance your sense of belonging. To play of course brings you that endorphin rush that physical activity so often does, but even just being involved from the side-lines brings friends into your life that you would not otherwise meet. And this family, can help you through the good times, the bad times and all the times in between.
So take a stroll down to your preferred club and start chatting with the locals (or miming if the French language is not your strongest asset). Playing sport and socialising with the team can be a great way to improve your French, and even if playing sport isn’t your thing, there is still a lot to be said for getting involved with your local teams.
If hockey is your thing, join us in Issigeac on a Monday evening from 8pm. Message me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
The UEFA Womens EURO 2022 will be played from 6 to 31 July in England with 15 other nations joining the hosts.
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