Super5, Soccer AM and Social Champions. Clara Heffernan chats to founders Morf and Georgy on the rise of Sirens FC.
After a tumultuous start to 2021 for football teams everywhere, many are wondering what the future holds for small clubs across the country. Amidst the chaos of Covid I sat down (virtually) with Morf and Georgy, the founders of Sirens FC – a London-based women’s club – for a chat about Zoom calls, online trolling and creating inclusive spaces for women in sport.
So, starting with the basics, how did Sirens come to be?
M: Me and Georgy actually used to work at the same agency and we worked with a lot of football clients. So back in May 2019, we discovered the Super5 League and went along to their open training.
We noticed a lot of girls there who didn’t have a team and just looked at each other and said ‘f*ck it, shall we make a team?’. From here, we started building our community through open training sessions and nowadays we have around fifteen players at training every week. As people who were new to working in London, we saw an opportunity to create a really strong bond with a group that became friends as well as teammates.
G: Yeah, and as someone who didn’t grow up as an avid footballer, the thought of doing trials for a team was very daunting. We wanted to create a space that was very open where everyone is welcome, and I’m so proud that we’ve achieved that with Sirens FC.
So is Sirens FC about the social aspect or the sporting aspect, or both?
M: Yeah, I would say we always try to strike a balance. We’re a mixed ability team which allows for so much growth in a sporting sense, but there is also a really important social element too. Off-pitch, we definitely spend time together as mates, although that was much easier before Covid happened!
Taking part in charity initiatives allows us to bond as a team while also doing some good for the community, so it’s ideal for us.
Can you tell me more about some of the charity work you’ve done as a team?
G: Since the first lockdown started, we saw how the team coming together actually had such a big impact. It was so nice to see how, during a period of isolation, people were so willing to come together to make a difference. We started with a virtual run for Age UK to combat loneliness amongst the elderly during lockdown.
M: That initiative ticked a lot of boxes – we were able to work on our fitness while we couldn’t train and we supported each other as a team while raising money for a cause close to our hearts. Then we had our art auction, which allowed us to reach out and connect with other teams. We basically decided to ask each team that we play against to create a piece of art about what community spirit means to them. Then we took it even further: we reached out to talented local artists like Martyn Ewoma, Kelly Anna and Lydia Bolton who repurposed or donated pieces to be auctioned. Ultimately, the proceeds went to The Black Curriculum and Kick it Out. It showed us that even as a small grassroots team, we were able to achieve something massive.
On that point, how do you champion diversity as a women’s team in terms of race, sexuality and religion?
M: It’s something we’ve always tried to do from the get-go. Obviously, there are teams within the league that represent specific ethnic minorities, which is great. Our goal has just always been to create an open team for everyone. Anyone is welcome and, like Georgy said, no intense trials or anything – just a good, honest environment for people to train and socialise in. Also, our charity work champions lots of different marginalised groups, so we hope that we represent the diversity of the team through that fundraising.
G: Yeah, as a team we don’t align ourselves with one specific charitable cause because we want to do as much as possible to support charities that are significant to each of our players.
It’s so important that we use our platform and team power to improve the lives of our players and their communities, so that’s the inclusivity we always aim for.
As a women’s team, have you faced backlash or negativity in such a male-dominated sport?
G: We definitely benefit from the community that Super5 League has created; it’s really open and very respected, so we receive a lot of support from people who appreciate what we do. But in different situations, it’s not necessarily the case. Last year, Sirens appeared as the first women’s soccer team on [i]Soccer AM[i] as the fans doing the football challenges. They posted a ‘top bins’ video and there were definitely a lot of comments from lads about women belonging in the kitchen and all that sort of stuff. That was an eye-opening moment, I think.
M: The thing is, that video got about 250,000 views so you can hope that young girls out there can see that and identify with us – but experiencing the trolling is the downside of that exposure. When the team saw those comments, we had to remind them not to let those opinions affect them because what they had just achieved was a really huge milestone!
G: And even though it’s difficult to read those comments, maybe it’s positive that we are exposing people to this content and challenging their views by just existing as a team. It could be seen as a road bump on the way to a more progressive attitude towards women in football.
M: More generally, it’s amazing that we have so many male supporters, and it’s so nice to have their encouragement at games and sessions. It’s always funny to hear the shock in their voice when they say ‘that was one of the best matches I’ve watched!’, because they don’t normally see women’s football and they honestly don’t expect to be impressed.
I’m sure Covid presented Sirens FC with a difficult challenge – how have you guys navigated lockdown as a team?
M: Zoom calls! We are so aware that everyone’s lives are currently on Zoom, so we try not to overdo it. We do have touchpoints – on New Year’s Eve we had a celebration on Zoom, and we have our group chat so we can check in on each other
It’s all about having an outlet and staying connected. The Super5 League has been posting football sessions every Sunday, which has been a great option for staying healthy and socialising.
G: We’ve definitely been conscious of not asking for too much from the team – some people do just want to come along and play football! Until that is possible again, we don’t want to be dragging people into a million Zoom calls, but we want those options to be there as an added way for people to connect and bond with their team.
What does the future look like for the Sirens? What are your hopes and ambitions for the team in the short-term and the long-term?
G: I think, short-term, our priority is just continuing to create an inclusive and safe space for people to play. Beyond that, there are so many opportunities for the team to continue being creative, being charity-driven, and we will be able to achieve so much when we collaborate in all those areas.
M: Yeah, I think just continuing to create a positive community and maybe expand it as much as possible. We’re always looking for new players so perhaps we could work towards forming a second team at some point down the road. Our charity work and team spirit are the most important elements of what we do, and I think if we can continue doing that, it’ll be great. Ultimately, I think we just want to keep using our creativity to champion women’s football and prove what we can achieve.