Football, Gay Role Models and Parenting – an interview with Casey Stoney

On Saturday August 2nd, I headed to Ware Youth FC to meet England football legends Martin Keown and Casey Stoney.

You can read about the day {here}.

Whilst there I was lucky enough to nab a quick interview with Casey, who currently plays for England and Arsenal Ladies.

We chatted about football, being a gay role model and the impending arrival of her twins with partner Megan Harris.

Here is how our interview went:

How do you feel about becoming a parent and how will it affect your football?

I am really excited! I don’t see their arrival affecting my football at all. I am quite fortunate that the season is over when they are due, so I won’t be changing nappies and having sleepless nights when we’re in season. I think when you become a parent it changes you and that I can bring more to the team, My teams are very supportive. My national side is very supportive, so I think that it will only be a positive experience for me.

What are you most looking forward to about becoming a parent?

*laughing* Not changing nappies or sleepless nights! I think just having 2 little bundles of joy that will depend on me and my partner and just having a family unit really and being able to love something that is completely yours.

My mum and dad split up when I was quite young so I didn’t really have that family unit, so to be able to have that will be amazing and to be able to share that with my partner and to take them to everything and let them experience everything. People are like ‘are they going to play football?’ – I don’t know. They can do what they want to do. I want them to try everything, every sport,  I want them to try everything and I will encourage them to do everything possible and they will find what they like and they will get all the love, support and care from us – and discipline if they need it *laughs*.

You’ve had a fantastic career so far. What highlights stand out for you? – for club and country.

For country – well, Team GB – for me, it was being Captain for Team GB at the Olympics and that night when we played against Brazil at Wembley and being able to lead the team out there. I didn’t even dare to dream of doing that as a little girl. There was over 70,000 people there and we sold more tickets than the men’s team, which is unheard of. So just being part of that whole experience was just the most incredible experience.

For my club, it was probably winning the FA Cup in 2005 when I played for Charlton. We didn’t expect to win it and we beat some great teams on the way to get there.

I’ve been really lucky in my career, but I think the harder you work the luckier you get.

Do you feel that you are a role model to younger females playing sports – especially those who are afraid to come out as being gay?

Yeah, I suppose I am. I never set out to be. I never set out to change things or break barriers or anything like that, but I am a big believer that if you have any sort of profile and you can use it in a positive way then you should. I have been really lucky that I have had a fantastic family support network who have known since I was 17/18 and they have always been positive, the same with my partner. If I can’t stand up and talk about it, then who can? I didn’t come out for any other purpose than to help other people, because the people who mattered to me already knew. I just see so many people struggling from day-to-day, feeling isolated and you hear stories of horrific experiences that shouldn’t happen today. There shouldn’t be any prejudice or any discrimination anywhere, there is too much going on.

Especially in sports as well?

Yeah. It’s incredible that, the CommonWealth games have been on and you still hear that in 43 out of the 52 countries, being gay is still illegal. Those sorts of things are still frightening. You’re not hurting anybody, it’s just the way you choose to live your life and it’s the person that you love and it’s not about anything else other than that. I have had so many positive messages from parents saying that they had helped their children, or older people, older generations saying ‘it’s fantastic what you’re doing’ – and when we spoke about having children, the amount of messages we had from parents saying thank you because my children can relate to that and that is what it was all about really, using your presence for a positive for other people.

And do you think there should be more gay role models in sport?

I would like to see when we are at a point where it’s not news and it’s not a story because it’s the way people live and to just let people get on with their lives, but until we have more role models and we have more people coming out saying ‘this is my life and I am no different to anybody else’ then we’re not going to get to that stage. I think there are some fantastic role models, look at Thomas Hitzlsperger, obviously he came out in football, Tom Daley and people like that.

And they had some fantastic support didn’t they, as soon as they came out?

Yeah, but then you see, like Michael Sam in America, when he came out he had some really negatives, but he still stood up and spoke his story and I think people admire him for that.

Do you think we are more open in this country (UK) to people coming out as gay?

Absolutely. I think we are. I have a friend who plays in America and she says that they are excepting over there, depending on which state you are in. Obviously different states have different laws and in some states it’s still illegal isn’t it? So I think it depends where you live in America but times have changed, even from when I was a little girl until now, but they need to keep changing and unless you challenge views and challenge things by speaking about it and making it visible then you can’t change anything.

And lastly, do you see coaching as the next step for you once you stop playing?

Absolutely! There is no other option really. Football has been my life since I was a very young girl and it’s changed my life. I am so thankful to football. I feel like I can never give football as much as it’s given me. I want to stay in the game. I want to coach, I want to manage, I want to do the punditry stuff as well.

Megan is doing some punditry isn’t she?

Yeah, she works for BBC Sport, and does a bit for them so football is very much a part of our household.

So you’re definitely going to have some little footballers then?

*laughs* Definitely. I don’t think I would have it any other way to be honest. It’s such a great game. It just brings people together, with days like today, it’s what it’s all about. And this, for me, is more important than watching any Premier League, because it gives the opportunity for the kids to play and to have fun in a safe environment, and if you ask any footballer, this is where it starts.

We did chat a little afterwards, and naturally I asked if they knew the sex of the babies – which they don’t, although Megan has a hunch (but I won’t spill the beans!). They are both super excited about their arrivals in November and can’t wait to meet them!

Us with Casey Stoney

Thanks goes to:

Casey Stoney for her time, answering the questions and for being OK with my kiddies interrupting us!

Braden River Girls Team from Bradenton, FL who are coached by my brother-in-law and supplied me with some great football questions to ask Casey.