The Grassroots Football Awards celebrate the people who make a positive difference in our football community and recognise contributions in categories ranging from officiating and coaching to groundskeeping and volunteering.
Journalist Faye Hackwell spoke to the Thanet LEGends who won last year’s Spirit of Football Award.
What started out as a group of “women of a certain age” kicking a football around in a park has grown into a team who celebrate milestones together, have comedic nicknames for each other and enjoy playing in a futsal league.
Margate’s Thanet LEGends were deemed to epitomise the spirit of football through the way they have bonded as a team through their shared love of playing the game.
Jeanette Brown, who joined after seeing a post on Facebook, describes her team as a “real ragtag group of people” ranging in age from 23 up to 53.
“It started about five years ago as women of a certain age just getting together and kicking a ball around in a park and now we’re affiliated to Ramsgate Football Club and play in an indoor five-a-side futsal league,” she said.
“Half of the people had never kicked a ball before. I’m 51 and we weren't allowed to play football at lunchtime at school even though it was 10 to 12 years after the ban was lifted, so it’s not something we’d done.
“To start with it was comedic but now we’re playing in a league and we do win now and again, but it’s not about winning.
“It’s about being part of it and the fact we all look out for each other.”
The players have given each other light-hearted nicknames like Tripsy, who is prone to falls, and Skittles, who is renowned for getting knocked over easily.
When they couldn’t train together during the Covid-19 pandemic, the LEGends still met virtually every Tuesday night on Zoom and their socialising goes beyond matches to celebrating birthdays and milestones together.
Lisa Sparkes, who plays for and has coached the team, nominated them for the award because she “wanted them to see just how amazing they were and thought this award would highlight that.”
She said: “After having spent the last few years playing and getting to know the Leg-Ends, especially over lockdown, I have seen this amazing bunch of people grow in confidence and belonging.
“The initial nomination really created something special within the team after sharing it with them, so to then get shortlisted and win it took the team pride to another level.
“There is so much amazing work happening in grassroots football and even if you don’t win, the fact someone has shared and recognised that work is a wonderful feeling.”
Jeanette added: “Winning the award was amazing. We went to the ceremony and we were watching all these inspirational stories and thinking ‘why are we here?’ then they read out we’d won.
“A lot of people drift along and don’t realise how important they are to other people, so this is about giving them that recognition.”
Do you know someone who deserves recognition for their dedication to grassroots football?
See the full list of award categories and find out how to nominate someone before the April 19 deadline by clicking the button below.