Women's Football: Strong opinions in a strange year

28 Dec 2020
  • 2020 is drawing to a close

  • Throughout the year, FIFA.com interviewed a whole host of personalities

  • We look back on some of the thought-provoking things they've had to say

2020 was shaped in every way by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a year in which everyone had to face totally new challenges – when nothing was the way it used to be, and when everyone was forced into major changes. A number of personalities from across the entire football spectrum were good enough to speak to us about the pandemic, and about issues that were close to their hearts.

Here is a brief selection from the many and varied interviews from last year. And you can be sure that women’s football will continue to occupy a major role on FIFA.com in 2021.

Naeher: I’m a better person now than I was at the start of 2020

"2020 has been an extremely unique year not just for sports but worldwide in every different area. Everyone puts in the work and those hours and this year was, at least for me, probably the most creative I’ve had to get in terms of preparation and staying ready and fit and mentally tuned in to what’s going on in a very unpredictable year. My focus all year has been about trying to stay as ready and prepared as I could be, not knowing exactly what was going to happen. The Olympics were cancelled, the season was on hold, games kept being put off, so I tried to keep the mentality of always staying ready and as prepared as I can be for whenever different opportunities would come up."

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 28: Alyssa Naeher #1 of the United States reacts in the second half against France during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Quarter Final match between France and USA at Parc des Princes on June 28, 2019 in Paris, France. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Lucy Rushton, Atlanta’s unsung hero

"I know there are a lot of negative stereotypes out there about women in football, but my experiences have been really positive. I’ve been welcomed by the clubs and all the people and shown the same level of respect that any guy has been given. For a woman even considering going down this route, sometimes you can think it’s not worth it and there’s too many boundaries to break down. That’s totally not the case and hasn’t been for me."

Hussein: It’s the same rules on the pitch as in the pharmacy

"I use factual explanations and combine that with my personality to explain to customers what is happening and in most cases, we can come to a good understanding. As a referee you learn how to choose the right tone when it comes to addressing people and recognising the one to use in particular situations when you most need it. Fortunately I haven’t had to hand out any yellow or red cards in my pharmacy just yet. But it’s the same rules on the pitch as in the pharmacy. I make a lot of my decisions based on intuition."

Chenard: From speedskater to player handler

"I really started to fall in love with refereeing. As my skating career was coming to an end, I was looking for a way to stay involved in high-level sport, to continue to travel, and soccer refereeing was the way to go. If you had asked me 20 years ago if I wanted to become a FIFA referee… Who would want to do that? That’s crazy, you get yelled at all the time."

Lloyd: The bigger the pressure, the better I play

"For the first time in my career soccer hasn’t come first. I have been cooking more, spending some time with family and friends and have even made a few trips to the Jersey Shore. I know I will look back on this time and cherish these months I had to really stop, reflect and enjoy the pause of life."

Nagasato: I can beat male players with quick decision-making

"I did not expect that me playing on a men’s team would be so popular, but I do think it's a positive message to girls and women. It's a great challenge for me to play with men, but it's even better for other women to see that it can be done."

Zerboni: An inspirational and tenacious leader

"I don't think fans think of me as a brilliant footballer. I think they think I'm one-track minded, but I'm actually a really big thinker. These wheels are always turning on and off the field. I'm constantly analysing and thinking. I had a lot of turmoil in my youth and a rough family life, so there's just that perseverance and learning to be a fighter and knowing that no one's going to hand you anything shaped me for sure. I also view my job and craft in this way: I'm going to go out on the field and battle for you. I'm not afraid to go into tackles because that's what the team needs. I have this mentality of service. I'm a competitor. I'm never afraid. Fear will limit your ability on the field. I love to give to people. I love seeing people succeed."

Bardsley: England should embrace US mentality

"I keep seeing articles saying that women’s sport is going to suffer most because of this COVID situation and I just refuse to accept that. To me, that kind of thing can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and I see it as our responsibility to put out the right messages, challenge the negativity, highlight the successes and keep pushing things forward."

McLeod: Mindfulness would have completely changed my career

"Looking back, I think I could have progressed a little quicker as a young player if I had been less self-critical and known how to react to disappointments. And what I know for sure is that I would have enjoyed my football a lot more."

Hayes: England has provided a beacon for women's football

"We thought it was only fitting that during an extremely difficult time, when people could not escape their home environments, that we make some kind of contribution that will hopefully help provide some respite. For us, that donation [of Chelsea's WSL prize money to Refuge, a charity supporting Women And Children Fleeing Domestic Abuse] was beyond money – it was a message that you’re never alone, that you never need to stay somewhere you’re not safe."

Pioneering Janoud breaking down barriers

"There is also a clear increase in coaches and referees and this positively shows the growth and change of the mentality and society. I believe in a few years women’s football in West Asia will evolve even more. The scope is open and subject to rapid evolvement. All it needs is organisation, guidance and sponsoring the rising talent, especially that it’s on such a significant increase. West Asia and Arab countries generally need a complete and integrated plan that can be implemented within the available resources. Within a few years, it won’t be surprising to notice a quick and huge change in a positively manner towards women’s football."

Janelly Farias saved by a nephew’s unconditional love

"He saved my life. I was at my lowest point. I wanted to kill myself. He was about a year or 18 months old. After he was born I got closer and closer to him. There was one day when I wanted to commit suicide. I went to see him and he gave me a hug. He could feel my pain and I could feel his love, and it changed my perspective on life. I knew I had to find a way for my parents to accept me."

Van de Sanden: Marozsan is on another level

"To be honest, I really needed the space. It was tough after the World Cup and my personal life had changed a lot over the last three years, so I needed the time out. I really enjoyed it and I also took the time to change my mindset because I had been struggling for the past year. You work really hard to give your best on the pitch, and if it doesn’t work out you get angry and sad. That’s what happened to me after the World Cup, so that’s why I really needed my space during Corona. I feel better for it."

Harder and Eriksson: Pride and power

"If we can help other people be themselves – and feel good about being themselves – we really want to do that.”