Words: Chris Horton, Photos: Tony Palmer Photography
Portsmouth and football go hand in hand, two FA Cups and all that fabulous history. But the city’s sporting landscape goes far beyond Fratton Park, with people enjoying a wide range of sports, some not on most people’s sporting radar.
One such sport is roller derby, with the Portsmouth Roller Wenches flying the flag for the city. The sport sees teams of 5 rollerskating players compete in a series of ‘jams’ in which one designated player attempts to lap members of the opposing team. Described as something akin to ‘rugby on skates,’ it’s fast, brutal and a lot of fun.
Southsea resident Ali Lees – or to give her, her ‘Derby name’, The Duchess of Crutches, has recently come back from representing Poland at the Roller Derby World Cup. A New Yorker, Ali grew up watching the sport, but it is only since being based here that she has started playing. “It’s more than a sport, it’s a movement. We’re one of the world’s fastest growing sports and the women’s teams are leading the way”.
Based mainly at Havant Leisure Centre, Portsmouth currently have two women’s teams as well as a men’s team – the Scurvy Dogs. You can find details about upcoming bouts from their website. They also run ‘fresh meat’ taster sessions with the next scheduled event on April 15th at Highbury Sports Centre.
The Wenches and Scurvy Dogs aren’t the only teams in the city playing a sport originally from the US. The Portsmouth Dreadnoughts – named after HMS Dreadnought – are an American Football team, and compete in the third tier of the National League. The team now train and play at Havant RFC, and hold open training on Sunday mornings between 10am-3pm, so anyone can come along and join at anytime. There are both men’s and women’s teams, as well as an Academy team for 14-19 year olds. The senior men’s team begin their 2018 campaign at home to Swindon Storm on April 29th.
How about a game of Quidditch? Yes, that’s right, having been invented by JK Rowling for her Harry Potter stories, it has been turned into a real life sport – complete with broomsticks. Jack Latoy, head coach of the Portsmouth Strikers explains the sport’s history, “Founded in 2005 in USA, Quidditch started as an homage to the fictional sport, but quickly evolved into a mixed gender, full contact sport in its own right”. Fast forward thirteen years, and Portsmouth now boasts both a university and community team, playing and training at Bransbury Park every Sunday morning.
The appeal of the sport lies in its inclusiveness, stresses Jack. “Traditional sports and the culture surrounding them is learned from a young age. Quidditch doesn’t have this type of sports culture, if anything, its origins lie in nerd culture.” A sport for people who might not play much sport, I suggest? “Not quite” counters Jack “The competitive nature of the sport is what appeals to most players and even the broomsticks – originally included as a nod to the Hogwarts game – mean players are more careful with the contact element of the game, making mixed gender games possible”.
So the next time you hear someone tell Pompey to play up, just check out which sport they are referring too.