Kenny Shiels – manager of the Northern Ireland women’s football team – has apologized for comments he said in a post-match press conference suggesting women are prone to conceding goals in quick succession because they “are more emotional than men.”
In a statement, Shiels apologized for the “offence that [his comments] have caused” and said that he is “proud to manage a group of players who are role models for so many girls, and boys, across the country.”
Shiels’ comments came after his side had been defeated 5-0 by England in a Women’s World Cup qualifier, ending its hopes of reaching the main draw. England scored its first goal after 28 minutes and second after 52 minutes.
“When we went 1-0 down, we killed the game, tried to just slow it right down to give them time to get that emotional imbalance out of their head,” Shiels said. “And that’s an issue we have not just in Northern Ireland, but all the countries have that problem.”
His remarks were met with widespread criticism.
“I think we all know that the five minutes after you concede a goal – not just in women’s football, [also] in men’s football – you’re more likely to concede a goal,” former England goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain told the BBC. “To just generalize that to women is a slightly bizarre comment.”
“Hearing a man talking about women being too emotional in this day and age, I just felt like I’d gone back 30 years, to be perfectly honest with you,” Yvonne Harrison, chief executive of Women in Football, said to the Press Association.
“It’s something women have had to face for years and years right across society, not just sport.”
Marissa Callaghan – Northern Ireland’s captain – released a statement the day after Shiels apologized, defending the embattled manager.
“We feel his interview was in relation to a meeting we had as a team where we analysed that we concede goals in quick succession and emotions was one of the many things we discussed,” the statement read.
“Since Kenny took over our national team 3 years ago, I have always complimented him publicly on how he can get the best out of his players individually and collectively. He is a man of integrity who cares for us like his family.”
Shiels has managed the women’s team in Northern Ireland since May 2019, overseeing its successful qualification for the Women’s Euro 2022 – the country’s first ever major women’s football tournament.
His press conference detracted from a record-breaking night as the match was attended by 15,348 spectators – the largest crowd ever seen at a women’s football match in England.
In Northern Ireland too, women’s football is growing in popularity. In an interview with CNN Sport last year, Northern Ireland’s most capped player, Julie Nelson, said that women’s football has “changed massively” in her lifetime.
When she first began playing football at age five, there was “nowhere that you would have seen women playing – and there were no local teams where I lived.”