Clapton Community Football Club bowed out of the Women’s FA Cup with their heads held high last Sunday after a 5-0 loss away to Plymouth Argyle.
The match marked the end of a history-making run in the competition. The club, which is owned and run by its members, became the first seventh-tier team to compete in the third round of the famous tournament.
The feat builds on that of its previous tie against Hounslow, when it became the first side to beat a team four divisions higher.
“In my 26 years playing football, I have never felt something like this,” said Clapton CFC midfielder Marta Boiro on Twitter. “The commitment and support from this club. The love from the fans. The friendship and joy with the team mates.
“Today I can say that, yes, we have made history.”
The club joined forces with AFC Stoke Newington to form a women’s team in 2019. Since then, support for the team has grown well beyond the borough’s boundaries.
Over 100 fans travelled to Sunday’s away fixture against Plymouth, with many catching the supporter’s coach at 6am.
Rachel Faragher, one of the fans who made the journey to Cornwall, said: “Everyone was just so happy to be there.
“It was really emotional at the end. I don’t think they could quite believe how many people travelled all that way to watch but how could we not?”
Funds for the third-round trip to Cornwall were raised through an appeal which exceeded its target of £3,000.
Goalkeeper Sophia Axelsson told the Citizen: “We’re eternally grateful to everyone who helped us get there. But we shouldn’t have to do that. The disparity between the prize fund between the men’s and women’s FA Cup is staggering.”
While an FA Cup run is typically seen to bring financial benefits, the journey has been an expensive one for The Tons.
The club was awarded just £315 from their loss to Plymouth. The tie also ended a string of five away games in the Women’s FA Cup, a competition where the home team keeps the gate receipts.
Amy Collins, a club member who has supported the team since its creation, said: “We were all more than happy to contribute and to put money towards this team, but we were all absolutely furious about the fact we even needed to do it at all.”
From funding travel to singing in the stands, the strength of Clapton CFC’s fan-led community was crucial to its cup run and continues to attract many to the side.
“That community is something that is incredibly important to me and to so many other people,” Collins said.
Faragher added: “I’ve made so many friends through the club as well. It’s just a great, positive, inclusive club.”
A supporters’ group is raising money for new changing rooms at The Old Spotted Dog Ground – a move that would pave the way for league football to be played there again.
To support the crowdfunder, visit chuffed.org/project/osd-changing-rooms-appeal.