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Performance Poet, Rosemary Dun

Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy - British Council
 This article was generously provided to ClubFootball by the British Council, which operates in China as the Cultural and Education Section of the British Embassy.


'"You don't understand

about boys and football ..."
announced my - soon to be ex-boyfriend,
with a sneer.
So, No
I don't understand.
But I could have
if all of you had
let me.'
Performance poet Rosemary Dun has attended only one football match in her life. 'Very cold and difficult to see,' is all she can recall of the experience. Yet years later, now aged 'forty-something' and the mother of two daughters, Rosemary has emerged as one of a select band of writers and musicians known as the Stroud Football Poets, based just outside Bristol, South-west England.
'Much has been written about men and football,' she explains. 'But I'm more interested in the woman's view, the outside view. When we're small children, boys AND girls get to kick a ball around. There's a great simplicity to the act. But then comes the point when gender lines are drawn up and football thereafter becomes boys' property.'
In her poem 'Different for Girls', Rosemary recalls how much she loved to play football as a child, despite being labelled a 'tomboy' (a girl who behaves like a boy) by other girls in the playground. Later, she noticed how her father only ever seemed able to express emotion when he watched football on television.
'Also, like many women I have done my time, standing on touchlines, watching my boyfriend play football, cutting up oranges at half-time.'
While gently critical of men's aggression and tribalistic instincts - 'I don't hate men,' she insists, 'I just find their behaviour around football to be puzzling' - Rosemary's poems are also not afraid to poke fun at the new generation of girls, or 'ladettes' (female version of lad), who have taken to football only so that they can admire the players' legs.
'It's no wonder I jump up whenever they score,
Though I try and yell "Yeah!"
It comes out as "Phwoar!"'
But there is a twist in her message. If it is okay for men to ogle female tennis stars, why criticise women who do the same to footballers?
'What did they expect?
They asked for it, surely?
Wearing short skimpy shorts
As they flaunted their bodies…'
Rosemary adds, 'Football is often called the Beautiful Game. But male commentators talk about the beauty of the action, that connection between foot and ball, rather than the beauty of the footballer, whereas lots of pre-pubescent girls have posters of footballers on their wall because they do see them as being beautiful.'
The poet's most recent, surreal work has her followed in the supermarket, in the pub, by a grinning David Beckham, anxious to prove to her that he is a non-threatening 'sensitive, new football kind of guy...'
'I like to use ideas and images to subvert the whole take on football, on masculinity and femininity, but I suppose what I'm really doing is struggling to discover what football is really all about. A poem is a great way to express all these different views rather than write a huge treatise; to take a moment and play with it.'
To take a moment and play with it. To take a ball and play with it.
Rosemary Dun would argue that the two are hardly different, whatever your sex, whatever your ultimate goal. No single interest group owns football, she believes. We all do. 


It's Different For Girls

When I was a child,
I played Football
with my Dad
and my brothers.
I was a dab foot at
headers too.
Up on The Downs
I'd run full pelt,
kicking the ball in front,
hair free,
as I dodged past Martin
heading for Dad,
in goal.
"Pass the ball!" shouts Martin
"Hard Cheese! Its mine."
before he can bring me down with a flying tackle
I kick the ball
right past Dad and into the net!
A Goal! Yesss!
As Juniors
we'd play footie in the schoolyard
all together
when we were
and Just Kids.
And when the other girls started playing Kiss Touch,
Mummies and Daddies,
I carried on
with my football.
"Rosie is a Tomboy!"
They'd taunt.
But I was glad,
took pride in
kicking that ball,
being one of the lads
I wasn't a sissy,
I didn't want to be
sent off at half time
for being different.
"She can't play football. She's a girl."
I shrieked
with rage.
Rushed and delivered
a dead leg
a Chinese Burn
a punch on the arm.
Why can't I play?
I'm as good as you!
Now I'm grown,
and the lines are drawn.
"You don't understand
about boys and football ..."
announced my - soon to be ex - boyfriend,
with a sneer.
So, No
I don't understand.
But I could have
if all of you had
let me.
Simon Inglis, July 2001

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