Lioness Nikita Parris talks about playing football with boys and what no one knows about being a pro

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Women’s football has come a long way; international matches are regularly broadcast on television, stadium seats are filling up and viewing figures are at an all-time high. Attitudes are change but we can all do our part, says Nikita Parris

“I think we all have a responsibility in some way. As players, we have to put on a big show; when we play on television we have to show our best talents, ”said the England and Arsenal striker. “The fans who walk through the doors [need to] make sure they bring their daughter, sister, niece, to watch games and be inspired.

It is also “so, so important” that football is an integral part of the curriculum in every school – for boys and girls.

England’s Nikita Parris in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying match against Northern Ireland (John Walton / PA) (PA wire)

One of England’s best players (from 2018 to 2020, Parris held the record for all-time top scorer in the Women’s Super League), she has won most of the major trophies – in the UEFA Women’s Champions League and FA Cup women to the Coupe de France Féminine (Coupe de France Féminine) – but she might as well have missed the opportunity to play completely.

“Football was very difficult to approach, I don’t remember that it was ever on the program,” said the 27-year-old from Liverpool. “We never had any community ties where you went from your school team to your Sunday league team and from there you were spotted – it wasn’t really a process back then. “

And there certainly weren’t any women’s teams – or enough women’s teams – available to join them. “I remember going to a tournament and we won, but the rest of the team was made up of boys – I was the only girl.”

Fortunately, there was a tournament in Moss Side, Manchester, which Parris could attend, and although she had never played in her local community with “my friends, my cousins ​​and my brother”, she was spotted for Everton at the incredible age of 12.

Women’s football still needs adequate financial support to give girls the same opportunities and access to training and development as boys, so that a career in professional football can one day be an option. This is why Parris supports a program called Weetabix Wildcats, non-competitive football for girls aged 5 to 11, either to learn the sport for the first time or to develop their skills by playing with other girls. of the same age – all aided by skilled FA. coaches and volunteers.

Being involved at the local level is a responsibility that Parris takes seriously. “One of the best things [about being a professional footballer] is seeing the development of women’s football and how much impact you have on someone else’s future – and how much you can move the game forward for someone else to take over ” , she says. “One thing that has always stood out to me is, ‘Leave the jersey in a better place than you found it’ – a teammate I met told me that when I was 15. “

When you think about how footballers spend their free time, you can imagine lavish parties, champagne and expensive dinners. “Everyone thinks you live this extravagant lifestyle off the pitch, but in reality you spend most of your time sitting on the sofa in a living room watching Netflix, recuperating, so you’re good to go.” the next session! You very rarely have the opportunity to go out and eat.

(John Walton / AP) (PA wire)

“Everyone thinks you do these amazing things because you get this money and spend it here and there and everywhere, but you really can’t. “

Although it is important to note that the salaries of female players in women’s football are pale compared to those of men. The latest 2019 Global Sports Salary Survey found the Premier League’s average salary to be over £ 3million per year (top players earn much more). Starting salaries in the Women’s Super League are said to be £ 20,000, with top players earning up to £ 200,000, according to the Guardian.

Being away from home can be a challenge, adds Parris. “If you really want to compete for the best and play for the best teams, you have to [be away a lot]. You miss things like baptisms and birthdays, family celebrations. Parris is reluctant to call it a sacrifice because she loves what she does, “but you miss it.”

Of course, when we watch a football game there is a lot going on that we don’t see. “We go to major tournaments and people only see the performances you put on the pitch, but they never see the staff behind the scenes or the work you put in to be the best in these tournaments,” she says. There are a lot of little cogs that need to come together to “be at your best, mentally, mentally and emotionally, to be ready for a football game,” little details like nutrition really make a difference.

With winter on its way, there will be no disruption in Parris’ training at Arsenal WFC, and his biggest winter training motivation tip is to remember what you couldn’t. do while locking.

“How did you feel when you were locked inside and couldn’t do these exercises, jog, play five on five, see our friends, and take a long walk? So [now] you really have the opportunity to take full advantage of it and ensure that you stay in good mental and physical health.

That and “take some underwear!”

Weetabix partners with the Football Association to encourage kids to be active and make healthier choices. For more information, visit weetabix.co.uk/weetabix-wildcats.

Join England against Latvia in the UEFA qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Tuesday November 30 at 7 p.m. on ITV4.

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