‘As an Indian-Welsh female football fan,­ I’m different from a lot of people. I feel like I am a voice for them’

Football fanatic Roopa Vyas on her journey following the sport, from a young girl in a male-dominated fanbase to becoming a champion for inclusion

Roopa Vyas is a director and LFC ambassador for #HerGameToo

When Roopa Vyas started writing about her love of football as a passion project during her teens, she never knew she would end up a notable personality within the Wales and Liverpool FC fanbases.

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Today, Caerphilly-born Roopa, 25, is a director and Liverpool FC ambassador for #HerGameToo, an organisation which aims to foster an ethos in football where women are equally welcomed and respected.

Growing up in a male-dominated football world, Roopa experienced exclusion all too familiar for many female fans.

I watched football with my brother and his friends. They wouldn’t talk to me in the same way

“I watched football with my brother and his friends. They wouldn’t talk to me in the same way,” Roopa admits. “We wouldn’t talk tactics or transfers in the same ways as they would with each other.”

Differential treatment accompanied the Liverpool FC superfan when she followed her team around the country and moved to the city for university. “I’d be travelling alone, or I’d be the only woman on the coach,” Roopa says. “Those experiences really shaped how I am now because I’ve had comments or I’ve just experienced men being men on long journeys, like three, four hours across England.”

During this time, Roopa recalls losing touch with the social aspect of the sport, something she had previously loved. She remembers cutting this out of her match day routines, and even wanting to leave games half way through.

Roopa says these experiences have made her more open, making her realise a lot of the “banter” and unwanted comments she received were unacceptable.

She has been emboldened to use her position to help other fans going through the same thing, creating a human point of contact for reporting abuse through #HerGameToo. “Massive football clubs have systems in place, but people don’t feel that human connection, because you’re filling in a report online,” Roopa says. “I’m reaching out to people, I’m on that journey with them.”

Cymru FC & Welsh identity

Growing up in the valleys, Roopa harboured a deep connection to her Welsh identity. Throughout her career, Roopa has been invited to speak at many big profile Welsh sport moments, such as the Euro 2020 squad announcement.

But similar to the differences she experienced within football, the Cymru FC personality felt like her presence was a ‘ticked box’ for institutions.

“There’s certain opportunities I’ve had, which I know that it’s because I’m an Indian-Welsh-Liverpool-Wales fan.

“I’m so different from a lot of other people. But at the same time, there’s loads of us. I feel like I am a voice for them.”

The future of football: a space for everybody

Following Wales’ first World Cup in 64 years, Roopa reflects proudly on the inclusive space she and others are carving out within football fanbases.

She recalls occasions of feeling disconnected and alone during a time that now seems outdated and dissipating: “No one really stood up for me at the time. I couldn’t really tell anyone [about her experiences],” she says. “But now it’s a case of: I know I can get support.”

Roopa’s top fan moments

  • Reporting on the Wales Euro 2020 squad announcement: “I was with former Wales players announcing Gareth Bale going to the Euros, literally shaking in Caerphilly Castle!”
  • Writing for The Anfield Talk and winning Best New Football Blog: “We went to Old Trafford and sang ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. It was just crazy.”
  • Speaking at the YesCymru Wrexham march: “I noticed I was the only person there who was like me, it was full of like white Welsh people, which is great, but also, you know, we need to be represented.”
  • Being part of The Red Wall, Wales’ loyal fanbase: “It doesn’t matter who you stand next to, if you’ve never even met each other before they’ll still embrace you when Gareth Bale scores that free kick.”