More than just a game, more than just a football club

Our club was set up 5 years ago last summer by a group of 5 gay guys in Cardiff that wanted to be able to play football in a safe and friendly environment free from homophobia. Their attendance at a GFSN 5-a-side tournament sparked an enthusiasm and interest to gain new members and grow the club. We still continue to enter national 5-a-side events, and our year started off perfectly when a squad of male and female Dragons went up to Leicester at the start of the season and won the Leicester Wildecats tournament. Since then we’ve been busy competing in the GFSN Leauge, South West League and have a varied programme of Community fixtures. Our main aim is to ensure that there is something for everyone in our football club and we have a wide range of players to cater for. Some relish the opportunity of GFSN League games against tough opposition and are fighting really hard to gain promotion this year. Others are passionate about 5-a-side and really enjoy Dragons 5’s or the Community 5’s fixtures that we’ve had. Then there are others who are just happy to dip in and out for the odd kick about and get involved in the socials.

What has really developed this year, has been the variety of the Community fixtures and the opportunities they’ve given us to meet people that we probably wouldn’t have met before in our everyday lives. A couple of weeks ago we had our second visit in the space of a couple of months to HMP Parc, also known as Bridgend Prison. Previously we had gone along with a men’s squad to play 5’s against some prisoners and prison staff which was a fantastic experience. This time, we were going along to play against a bunch of female prison staff who had recently started to get together during lunchtimes to play footy within the prison grounds. It was a great opportunity for us to give our female players a bit more game time and also the chance for some of the Dragons guys to come along to the prison and experience the environment.

HMP Parc

HMP Parc

We knew from speaking to Phil Forder, our G4S prison contact, that the female staff were a bit nervous about us bringing guys along but  we reassured him that with this being a Community fixture, it’s not about the winning, it’s about the taking part. The game was played on a lovely floodlit 3G pitch smack bang in the middle of prisoner accommodation which looked a bit like Talybont Student residences. We agreed to play 6-a-side with rolling subs for 1 hour with a short break for half time. Ryan B was our keeper and had big shoes to fill given Dave Amos’s outstanding performance against the prisoners last time. The three Dragons women started together with a couple of Dragons men and the game kicked off really evenly. It was a great standard of football and the female prison staff showed some great skill and determination. They had a real mix of players from some who hadn’t played football at all before right up to Welsh Premier League standard.

It took about 10 minutes to break down the prison staff defence with a neatly taken goal by Amy who seems to be well on her way back to form since her knee injury. The Dragons women played really well together which is promising for the upcoming European tournament in June. Changes were made about every 8 minutes to ensure that the Dragons each got some good game time. It was great to see Richie Jones back playing 6-a-side football and really enjoying himself. Craig is a fairly new addition to the Dragons and he tested the prison staff  with some great strikes at goal and some good movement off the ball, linking up with the team nicely. Liam was suffering from an injury to his little toe, so wasn’t on his top form but he still managed to score in the first half with his lovely new boots. The work rate of the Dragons was fantastic and it needed to be, as the prison staff gained confidence and were taking more shots at goal which were testing Ryan. John W and Jeremy covered plenty of ground up and down the pitch, hassling the prison staff and generally making life difficult. Ruth was a good asset up front, losing her defender just on the edge of the box and had a few good chances.

HMP Parc

HMP Parc

Into the second half and the game was being played in great spirits. We had an official referee, Keith, who was firm but fair with his decisions. We were keen to see if he was going to use his 2 minute ‘sin bin’ rule but no-one behaved badly enough for this to happen. The second half produced two more Dragons goals – another from Liam and a great strike from Craig who has an incredibly powerful shot. Special mention goes to Harriett’s disallowed goal which was a really well taken effort and an even better goal celebration, only to realise that it was well inside the box.

The final score was 4-1 to the Dragons after a fantastic game of football. Following the game we were taken into the Phys Ed wing where we were treated to the healthiest post-match food we’ve ever eaten – salad boxes! There were promises from the female staff that next time they’d try to arrange bacon rolls, chips, sausage rolls so we said we’d definitely come back. This time, like most of the other Community fixtures we’ve had this season was more than just a game, it was about building relationships with other footballing groups and spreading the message about who we are and what we do. We’re definitely more than just a football club.

Dragons squad: Harriett, Ruth, Amy, Ryan B, John W, Richie, Jeremy, Liam, Craig

Supporters: Shona, Jordan, Ali

A huge thanks goes to Phil Forder, Matt, Ruth and the team from the prison for inviting us in again and making us feel so welcome. Thanks also goes to the Dragons players and spectators for giving up their evening to represent the club in such a positive way.

This year, we’re proud to say that we have 57 members (male and female) all signed up, the majority of whom are players. Our members come from Cardiff, the Valleys, West Wales and even as far as Bristol. If you’re interested in joining then drop us a line or find us on Facebook or Twitter.