Highlights - Leeds 1-4 TottenhamMay 28
Northern Ireland boss Kenny Shiels’ claim that female teams concede goals in clusters because they are “more emotional than men” has been labelled “very unhelpful” by Women in Football’s chief executive Yvonne Harrison.
Harrison said she felt like the clock had been turned back “30 years” after Shiels’ comment, made after watching his side concede four goals inside 27 second-half minutes during Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifying defeat by England in Belfast.
She told the PA news agency: “I was disappointed, I was quite shocked. Hearing a man talking about women being too emotional in this day and age, I just felt like I’d gone back 30 years, to be perfectly honest with you.
The comments are very unhelpful and not particularly inspiring to young girls and boys who were watching that game and think that's OK to talk like that
- Women in Football chief executive Yvonne Harrison
“But I caveat that with his team had just been beaten 5-0 by a very strong Lionesses team and that’s not easy to take, and you’ve got all the media on you.
“Let’s think about the 15,000-plus people who were at the match – that’s amazing. Let’s think about the fact, from a Lionesses point of view, we’re almost there, one more point going into the Euros, so that’s brilliant as well. So there are a lot of positives to take from the game.
“But the fact that we talk about being too emotional, it’s something women have had to face for years and years right across society, not just sport, and the comments are very unhelpful and not particularly inspiring to young girls and boys who were watching that game and think that’s OK to talk like that.”
Shiels raised the issue in his post-match press conference, with Northern Ireland having made it to the 52nd minute trailing just to Lauren Hemp’s first-half strike before wilting in front of a crowd of 15,348 crowd at Windsor Park.
He said: “I thought they were struggling a wee bit at times to open us up until the psychology of going two up.
“In the women’s game you’ll have noticed if you go through the patterns, when a team concedes a goal they concede a second one within a very short period of time.
“Right through the whole spectrum of the women’s game, because girls and women are more emotional than men, so they take a goal going in not very well.”
Harrison pointed to greater investment in sports psychology in the men’s game, but also to goals scored in quick succession in Chelsea’s 6-0 Premier League romp at Southampton and Tottenham’s 4-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday.
She said: “If we look at the weekend’s results – let’s take Chelsea or the Spurs game. They were high-scoring games, multiple goals were scored in short spaces of time.
“Villa and Spurs, one was at 66 minutes, one was at 71 – were they emotional? Can they not cope? Have they not got the mental resilience?”
Harrison called on men within the game to counter discrimination on the grounds of gender and to consider how they would feel if their sister, daughter, auntie or grandma were the target of such comments, but also stressed the importance of being able to show emotion.
She said: “Everyone has emotions. When you make comments like that, it’s almost like it’s not OK to show your emotion, so it’s not OK for men to show their emotion.
“And yet we know that suicide rates in men, particularly young men, are very, very high, so why is it not OK to show your emotion?
“I would just challenge people to think more personally about people related to them because, when you do that, you maybe do consider what comes out of your mouth in a slightly different way.”
Former England keeper Siobhan Chamberlain described Shiels’ comments as “slightly bizarre”.
Chamberlain told BBC Radio 5 Live: “We all know – and we get it drilled into us as footballers – the five minutes after you concede a goal, the five minutes after you score a goal across the board, not just in women’s football, in men’s football as well, you’re more likely to concede a goal, you’re more likely to potentially go on to score again.
“That’s not just in the women’s game, that’s in the men’s game as well and to just generalise that to women is a slightly bizarre comment.”
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