Northern Ireland boss Kenny Shiels’ claim that women’s teams concede goals in groups because they are “more emotional than men” has been called “very unhelpful” by Women in Football chief executive Yvonne Harrison. .
Harrison said he felt the clock had turned back “30 years” after Shiels’ comment, made after watching his team concede four goals in 27 second-half minutes during Tuesday’s World Cup qualifying loss by the night against England in Belfast.
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.
“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.
“Let’s think about the more than 15,000 people who attended the game, that’s incredible. Let’s think about the fact, from the Lionesses’ point of view, we’re almost there, one more point to the European Championship, so that’s brilliant too. So there are a lot of positives to take from the game.
“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 raised the issue in his post-match press conference, with Northern Ireland arriving in the 52nd minute only behind Lauren Hemp’s first-half goal before withering in front of a crowd of 15,348 at Windsor Park.
He said: “I thought sometimes they were struggling a bit to open up to the psychology of going two up.
“In women’s football you will have noticed if you review the patterns, when a team concedes a goal it concedes a second in a very short period of time.
“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?”
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.”
Former England goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain described Shiels’ comments as “slightly odd”.
Chamberlain told BBC Radio 5 Live: “We all know, and as footballers, it’s drilled into us, the five minutes after conceding a goal, the five minutes after scoring a goal across the board, not just women’s football, Also in men’s football, the more likely you are to concede a goal, the more likely you are to score again.
“That’s not just in the women’s game, it’s also in the men’s game and generalizing that to women is a bit of an odd comment.”