Something a little bit different in this week’s podcast episode. This one has nothing to do with any current team but as a fan of books and the history of women’s football it was great being able to speak with Lou Kuenzler, the author of ‘Our Beautiful Game.’
The book tells the story of Polly Nabb, a young girl desperate to play football while her brother goes off to fight in the trenches of the First World War. It is inspired by amazing young footballers like Lily Parr and Alice Woods who changed attitudes to girls and women on the pitch and showed extraordinary courage on the home front too.
We actually recorded this in the midst of the summer’s heatwave and while England were marching on in the European Championships. Lou was an absolute pleasure to speak to, her passion for this story and while the characters are fictional there are many similarities between Polly’s story and the experiences of the trailblazers like Lily Parr and Alice Woods.
Lou doesn’t hold back and is incredibly honest about her dyslexia. Something which you might imagine would hold her back in her writing, but far from it! She told me, “I am incredibly dyslexic. I’ve definitely struggled with getting words down on paper. So it’s perhaps odd for someone so dyslexic, that I wanted to be a writer because stories are always spinning in my head.
“I would say to anyone who is dyslexic or has dyslexic kids, you know, Your imagination has got nothing to do with dyslexia. In fact, people who are dyslexic or who have other learning needs differences often make great writers because we see the world in a slightly different way to others. And so we’re noticing that thing that someone else might not notice. And that’s what people love to read about is this slightly different slide.
“I’ve always been telling stories out loud. Since I was a very, very little girl, I mean, I grew up on a windy sheep farm and I would talk to the sheep and tell them stories. So verbalizing, and then eventually learning to put that there.
“You know, if you want to be better at football, you’re going to have to practice every day, every week, you know? And it’s not about playing big matches, is it? It’s about putting into skills during the drills? It’s exactly the same for a writer. Your brain it is like a muscle of the more you use it, the stronger it gets.”
I really enjoyed the world that Lou’s has built and the picture she painted of life during the great war. Including unknown facts such as during recreational kick-a-bouts between factory workers were normally split between married and unmarried men. Lou explained to me, “This was a detail I picked actually in a wonderful account that I read of the Dick Kerr Ladies team and it really stuck with me. The author, Barbara Jacobs, said something really interesting that she talks about how that’s possibly one of the ways in which girls came to play more because the unmarried teams began to get short of players as the young man.
I don’t want to spoil too much so have a listen for yourself and then head out and buy the book which is available from the publisher, Faber & Faber, priced £7.99.