“Because girls and women are more emotional than men, so they take a goal going in not very well.”
These were Kenny Shiels’ words after his Northern Ireland side lost 5-0 to the England women’s team at Windsor Park, Belfast, on Tuesday, words for which he has now apologised.
The night had been a celebration up until this point; the score line may not have gone the way Northern Ireland wanted but it had been a record attendance at Windsor Park with well over 15,000 people at Northern Ireland’s national ground.
This record also comes just a few weeks after the Women’s El Clasico match was played in front of a sold out Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, breaking the record for the highest ever attended women’s match.
Yet it feels as if we are right back to square one again.
The grand old stereotyping of women’s hysteria has been blamed by Northern Ireland’s very own manager as the reason his team lost.
Not because England are the eighth ranked side in the world compared to Northern Ireland’s 46th, or because England will have much more funding in their women’s outfits (as seen in the Women Super League).
No. Northern Ireland lost because they were too emotional.
Shiels explained: “In the women’s game, I’ve noticed, as I’m sure you’re aware, if you go through the patterns, when a team concedes a goal they concede a second one in a very very short period of time.”
Was Shiels even at the match? England’s Lauren Hemp scored after 26 minutes but the next goal did not come for another 34 minutes. So if women’s emotions really are the cause for goals being scored in such quick succession, how did his side manage to contain themselves for those minutes either side of half time?
We also didn’t happen to see the same remarks being made when the Lionesses beat North Macedonia by 10 goals, or when Latvia were demolished 20-0.
It’s the ‘more emotional than men’ part of the comment which is particularly damaging and bizarre in equal measure, especially when you consider the latest goings on in the men’s game.
On Saturday 9 April 2022, Cristiano Ronaldo was recorded while appearing to knock a phone out of a boy’s hand after his side lost 1-0 to Everton, resulting in the fan’s phone breaking.
In his apology, the Portuguese forward said: “It’s never easy to deal with emotions in difficult moments.”
Ronaldo chose to blame the emotion for the incident, whilst also saying: “Nevertheless, we always have to be respectful, patient and set the example for all the youngsters who love the beautiful game.”
The headlines the next day all spoke of Ronaldo’s ‘outburst’ but there was no mention, until the quotes were published, that anyone was going to blame the 37-year-old for being ‘too emotional’.
If one of the Northern Irish women had come off the pitch and done the same act, one can only imagine how those headlines might have differed - Shiels presumably offering one of his own, apologising for his ‘emotional women’.
Fast forward only three days to Wednesday 13 April 2022 and chaos ensued at the Estadio Wanda Metropolitano as Atletico Madrid hosted Manchester City for the second leg of their Champions League quarter final.
Where do you start with this game? Steven Savic attempted to drag Phil Foden up from his feet, resulting in six yellows and one red card.
Yet, today we see the word ‘chaos’ blasted everywhere, but not the word ‘emotional’.
At a time where we should be celebrating and pushing forward in the continued advancement of women’s football, I’m sure I can speak for many women when I say there will have been a collective sigh of disappointment mixed with a sound of frustration that there are still loud, prominent voices in the sport holding on to these outdated stereotypes.
As Ronaldo pointed out in his much-critiqued apology, it’s about setting that example for the ‘youngsters’.
Girls football clubs are becoming increasingly more popular but when young girls or teenagers read somewhere that they are too emotional to be successful at the sport, it becomes harder to believe that they can achieve what their male counterparts can.
We should be shouting out words of encouragement and joy that there are so many girls wanting to get involved in the sport and that one of the most famous stadiums in the world was at full capacity during a women’s game, not picking on inaccurate flaws that could so easily damage confidence and ruin the phenomenal progress we’ve made.
Is there ever to be a day where we will be rid of such baseless labelling? When people holding such high and vocal positions as a country’s manager are still coming out with such detrite comments.
It’s hard to see when that day will be, but can we all ensure this day comes much sooner rather than later, because I for one am getting tired, and quite frankly bored of having to read yet another ridiculous stereotype.