NI boss Kenny Shiels apologises for women ‘more emotional than men’ comment

Northern Ireland boss Kenny Shiels has apologized after his claim that women’s teams concede group goals because they are “more emotional than men” was labeled “very unhelpful”.

Shiels’ comments came after he watched his side concede four goals in 27 second-half minutes during Tuesday night’s 5-0 World Cup qualifying loss to England in Belfast, prompting criticism to which he responded on Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement, he said: “I wish to apologize for my comments made at the post-match press conference last night. I am sorry for the offense they have caused.

I wish to apologize for my comments made at the post-match press conference last night. I am sorry for the offense they have caused.

“Last night was a special occasion for women’s football in Northern Ireland and I am proud to lead a group of players who are role models to so many girls and boys across the country.

“I am an advocate for women’s football and I am passionate about developing opportunities for women and girls to thrive.”

Yvonne Harrison, executive director of Women in Football, had previously said she felt the clock had turned back “30 years” after hearing Shiels’ comments.

She told the PA news agency: “I was disappointed, I was quite shocked. Listening to a man talk about women being too emotional these days, I felt like I had gone back 30 years, to be completely honest with you.

Georgia Stanway of England celebrates scoring her team's fourth goal against Northern Ireland

Georgia Stanway of England celebrates scoring her team’s fourth goal against Northern Ireland (Liam McBurney/PA)

“But I warn that with his team he had just been beaten 5-0 by a very strong Leonas team and that is not easy to accept, and you have all the media on you.

“But the fact that we talk about being too emotional is something that women have had to deal with for years and years throughout society, not just in sports, and the comments are very useless and not particularly inspiring for children and girls who were watching that. I play and I think it’s okay to talk like that.”

Shiels spoke about his team’s propensity for conceding goals in quick succession (they had also shipped three in just nine minutes against Austria on Friday) after seeing them go into the 52nd minute only behind Lauren Hemp’s first-half goal before withering in front of to a crowd of 15,348 in Windsor Park.

He said: “In women’s football you will have noticed if you go back through the patterns, when a team concedes one goal, they concede a second in a very short period of time.

Northern Ireland v England – Women's FIFA World Cup Qualifier – Group D – Windsor Park

Kenny Shiels’ side lost 5-0 to England at Windsor Park on Tuesday night (Liam McBurney/PA)

“Across the whole spectrum of the women’s game, because girls and women are more emotional than men, so they don’t take a goal very well.”

Harrison pointed to a greater investment in sports psychology in men’s football, but also to the goals scored in quick succession in Chelsea’s 6-0 Premier League win at Southampton and Tottenham’s 4-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday.

She said: “If we look at the results from the weekend, let’s take Chelsea or the Spurs game. They were games with a lot of scoring, multiple goals were scored in short spaces of time.

“Villa and Spurs, one at 66 minutes, another at 71, were they excited? Can’t they cope? Don’t they have the mental resilience?”

Tottenham's Son Heung-min celebrates completing a hat-trick at Aston Villa with goals in the 66th and 71st minutes

Tottenham’s Son Heung-min celebrates completing a hat-trick at Aston Villa with goals in the 66th and 71st minutes (Nick Potts/PA)

Harrison called on men in the game to counter gender discrimination and consider how they would feel if their sister, daughter, aunt or grandmother 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 okay to show your emotion, which is why it’s not okay for men to show their emotion.

“And yet we know that suicide rates in men, especially young men, are very, very high, so why isn’t it okay to show your emotions?

“I would just challenge people to think more personally about people related to them because when you do that, you might look at what comes out of your mouth in a slightly different way.”