Rosa's story: Crystal Palace allow me to play the game I love

21 Feb 2024
Palace For Life Foundation, Connectors, Rosa v1

Discover how the Palace For Life Foundation gives one walking footballer confidence and friendship

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Since 2010, the Premier League and Professional Footballers' Association's Community Fund has enabled clubs across England and Wales to develop and deliver community programmes that are tailored to needs in their local area.

Here, we take a look at the incredible impact of some of these programmes.

Rosa (Crystal Palace)

The Palace For Life Foundation run weekly women's Walking Football Sessions as part of its Palace Connectors programme, which aims to reduce social isolation, improve mental well-being and increase physical activity in South London.

One of the members of the Walking Football team is Rosa, who has been attending weekly football sessions since September 2022.

This is her story.

"I'm a mum of two with an Italian background and I live in south-east London.

"I have always enjoyed football but when I was growing up, there weren't many opportunities for girls to play. I used to play with the boys in the playground but that's as far as it went. I started looking for Walking Football for my husband as he has mobility difficulties.

"While searching for a sport for him, I discovered women's Walking Football with Crystal Palace. I joined one session with a friend and loved it.

"I play most Thursday evenings and I absolutely love it. I enjoy playing with the other women who are inspirational.

"I have a hearing impairment and my coach Mary has been brilliant. She helps me by explaining at the beginning of the session what drills we will be doing by using a whiteboard. She also comes up to me just to make sure I understand what we are doing.

"We train at the Crystal Palace Academy. I love walking into the dome - it feels so good to play in there. Being in the dome and knowing that you are part of a team in the Premier League means so much.

"Most of my team-mates are older than me but their fitness levels are amazing. I would love to be like that when I get older and have the energy they have.

"They are so reassuring, even when I kick the ball to the wrong team. They always guide me to stay calm, look up and stand my ground. Many of the women that I play with make me feel inspired.

Palace For Life Foundation, Connectors, Rosa v2

"The biggest thing for me is that I am finally playing the game I love, with a bunch of lovely women who enjoy the game too. What is so lovely is the banter and friendships made. We all share the same love for the beautiful game.

"I have always enjoyed football, watching the World Cup growing up and now married into a family who are football crazy. Football is teamwork, exercise, enjoyment, fun and you get a great sense of happiness when you score a goal or win a match.

"I enjoy being part of the Walking Football community and getting to know them all better, they are getting to know me too. The women make you feel so welcome. Some of them have been playing for a while and some play for England, so it is an honour to be playing beside them.

"I am one of the quiet ones on the field, but the women make me feel part of the team. I am becoming more confident on the ball and building my fitness levels and stamina.

"I love playing, I love that each week I get a little bit better, trying not to panic and looking around for a player on my team, improving my performance. I also enjoy playing in goal too, especially when I make a couple of good saves!

"To be honest it did take me a little while to go to the training for the first time. Luckily one of my friends came with me and that helped me. I now feel part of the community and not so shy going to training. The women are all friendly and they understand that if I miss something in the conversation, they need to repeat it.

"Everyone is very understanding and there is a real sense of inclusivity. I really recommend that anyone who has any type of disability not to let that beat them. Football can be so inclusive and anyone can play. So if you have a disability and want to play football, my advice is…do it!

"For me, playing Thursday evenings at Crystal Palace Academy is a dream. I never thought it would happen. It is amazing to see all these girls' teams being set up and girls' football taking off. I just want to keep playing and continue to improve my fitness levels."

Rosa's story was captured as part of a Premier League Charitable Fund and Goal Click collaboration to showcase the impact of the Premier League and Professional Footballers' Association Community Fund.

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