On International Women’s Day, former Arsenal and England winger Rachel Yankey explains how views on women in football have changed over the past 15 years and why producing better female coaches is more of a priority than making a breakthrough in the men’s game.
When I was a kid, I once shaved my head to pretend to be a boy because it ensured no-one questioned me as a footballer.
And when I started coaching in primary schools in 2004, the kids would see a woman walk into the playground and say: “Why have we got a female coach?”
Thankfully, that sort of scenario doesn’t happen any more.
When I was recently doing my Uefa B licence, I coached at Barnet’s under-18 men’s team and there were no quizzical looks or snide comments.
It probably helped that they recognised me from my playing career at Arsenal and England, but they accepted me for who I was and after a few sessions I gained their trust. It feels pretty cool when a player turns to you and asks: “As a winger, what would you do?”[…]