Zelem: Surround yourself with positive people

What obstacles do you think you’ve had to overcome?
“I think when I was younger, it was an all-boys team that I used to play in and a lot of the lads and, to be honest, more so the parents, used to shout stick from the side. ‘You shouldn’t have a girl on your team, football’s not for girls!’  I had a lot of friends at the time that played football at school, whatever it may be, and a lot of girls stopped playing at such a young age because of things like that. They’re not strong enough, they don’t want it enough to be able to overcome the heckling from the side and I think that shouldn’t ever be the case. You shouldn’t have to choose between being shouted at from the side or pursuing something that you love. So, for me, I was lucky enough I had a really supportive family that really pushed me and could take me everywhere but unfortunately that’s not the same for everyone.”

With the way the women’s game’s profile has risen over the last few years and that we’re seeing women within the game become legends of the women’s game, how different do you think it will be for young girls now to have those women to look up to?

“I think it’s incredible and I think when I was growing up I used to watch Fara Williams play, and I was lucky enough to be able to share the field with her and play midfield alongside her. So, for me that was an incredible opportunity and now I see little girls and little boys with our names on the back of their shirts and it’s incredible that we can be role models for people growing up because we didn’t have that pathway coming through. So now somebody can look at me, look at some of the other girls at Manchester United and say: ‘I want to be like them’.”

And how important do you think it is that young girls get to pursue their passions?
“I think it’s really important, like I said, you shouldn’t ever have to choose between pursuing your passion or doing anything that you want to do. You shouldn’t have an obstacle in the way and I think there’s a lot of other career paths where that’s not the case. So whereas in sport, women in sport, and especially previously in football it was very difficult to be able to achieve that. So I’m very grateful for the people that have been before me and hopefully the people in the game now that are leading the pathway for people coming through.”

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