Olivia Hancock, a 13-year-old activist who has raised thousands for the Teenage Cancer Trust and helped homeless children’s charities in Brazil, paid her first visit to The Dripping Pan in Lewes on Sunday.
She dragged dad Gary all the way from Leicestershire to see Lewes FC Women narrowly lose 1-0 to Championship League high flyers Durham Women.
What did she think of it? “I love it!” she enthused. “And mostly because of equality – all female players should play on the same pitch as the men.”
The visit was part of Olivia’s latest campaign – to take a stand against sexism in the beautiful game.
Sadly, she was punched in the stomach by a boy when she tackled and scored against him during a football match at school recently.
She said: “He didn’t like that a girl played better than him. I asked him if he loved his mum, and what would he think if a man punched her in the stomach while she was walking along the street? That made him think twice.”
The experience made the teenager decide to take matters into her own hands and attempt to make an educational film about sexism in football for school children to watch.
Footie-mad Exeter City fan Olivia has been garnering support to raise funds for her mission from the likes of Lioness Millie Bright, England manager Phil Neville, players like Wilfried Zaha, and celebrities Stacey Dooley and Davina McCall.
Lewes FC Women players have also got behind Olivia’s activism on Twitter and say they are ‘proud of what she is doing’. Striker, and New Zealand international, Katie Rood called her ‘an inspiration’, whilst midfielder Leeta Rutherford said Olivia was ‘incredible’ and urged people to get behind the young football player’s initiative.
On her ‘Go Fund Me’ account Olivia says: “I have played the game since I was four years old. Like many girls I have had sexist abuse from boys – and even some parents – simply for being a girl playing football. As if football should only be played by boys!’
Lewes FC is the first, and currently the only, football club in the world to assign equal playing budgets to both its first teams. Was this the draw for Olivia’s visit to Sussex? “Definitely,” she said, “because at the moment boys can have a dream of playing for big clubs, but girls generally can’t. They’re changing that here in Lewes – girls can dream right here!”