Casey Stoney is the Defender of the England Football Team and is the new ambassador for McDonald’s grassroots football partnership with The Football Association which aims to give more young people, including girls, the opportunity to play football.
Earlier this year, Casey opened up about her sexuality and announced that she and her partner, former teammate Megan Harris, are expecting twins and couldn’t be happier.
Casey’s partner chose to retire from football to have children, and Casey will be the only mother in the England squad when they play in the World Cup next year (pending one point in their next two qualifying matches).
Casey expresses her joy on starting a family, why equality for women in football is important and her support for grassroots football.
A few weeks ago my partner Megan Harris and I shared the exciting news that we were expecting twins. I’ve got to be honest, I was completely overwhelmed, in a good way of course, but a little bit frightened as well.
When I found out, I thought, “oh my god, two!” Every single person has been telling me to get my sleep in now. But we won’t know any different and I think having twins is a really special thing.
Although Megan was really sick throughout the first few months, now, at nearly six months pregnant, she’s feeling healthy and getting bigger by the day. We’re in full-on prep mode trying to get everything ready. Prams, cots, car seats – two of everything. I’ve been really lucky in my life to play the sport I love professionally, but to have a family, it will just complete me.
Indeed, the only thing that has come close to finding out about our twins, was when I received the phone call telling me I was going to play football for England. The two might seem unrelated, but for women in professional sport, competing at the top level and the decision to start a family are inextricably linked.
All women want is equality, but it’s the only thing in life that we can’t be equal for. In professional sport, you cannot carry on when you’re pregnant. Megan is carrying our children and it was a decision that was never really a question because my career – for club and country – was and is still going strong.
Naturally there are loads of women who play sport who want to have children. They have to make the decision to step out of the spotlight for a while, often at the peak of their careers. Jessica Ennis is a prime example. After one of the biggest years of her life at the London 2012 Olympics, where not only did she win on the track but off it too, with lots of lucrative sponsorship deals and a high public profile, she took a break and missed the Commonwealth Games to start a family.
If I had done that, I would be missing the England Ladies 2015 World Cup qualifiers which we’re playing now. We’ve won every qualifier so far and can really achieve something in Canada next year, something I want so much to be a part of.
There is no real ‘solution’ to this, it is just plain old biology. That said, the more support women with children receive from national governing bodies when they return to sport, the better. Much the same as other professions, this is where the opportunity to champion equality comes into play.
I also think it’s important to remember that just because women have children, it doesn’t mean their careers are over. I believe they can come back stronger, both physically and mentally. Look at Jo Pavey; at 40 years old and 11 months after the birth of her second child, she won gold in the 10,000m race at the European Athletics Championships last week. This followed her bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and she is now eyeing up the 2016 Olympic Games.
Being a woman should never hold someone back from playing sport. If a young girl or a woman loves to compete – for fun or with a view to becoming a professional – they should go for it. For young girls in particular, sport can improve their self-esteem and confidence, teach them important life skills and keep them healthy and active. It’s the main reason I’m supporting McDonald’s Community Partnership with The FA, which aims to improve the standards of grassroots football so that young people, including girls, are given every opportunity to play the game I love. McDonald’s has been supporting grassroots football for 12 years and this month renewed their commitment to the partnership with UKFAs for another four.
At the launch last week, we turned the halfway line at Wembley Stadium into a giant washing line, to demonstrate the 250,000 of football kits being donated to junior teams as part of the scheme. We invited a young football team down to help us and I met a group of young girls who played for the team – all around 9 or 10 years old – who reminded me of myself at that age. It’s young girls like them who need strong female role models, beyond pop stars and people on reality TV shows and I’m proud to be one, though it was never what I set out to do.
As for the future of our little family, I’d love to be pregnant one day. Watching Megan’s body change and feeling the baby kick and move, it’s such an amazing thing. It’s weird, but amazing. I would definitely love to experience motherhood in that way and hopefully one day I will.
Casey Stoney is helping to launch McDonald’s new four year community partnership with The FA. McDonald’s is giving over 7,000 junior football clubs across the UK free kits as part of their work supporting grassroots football. For more information, visit mcdonalds.co.uk/betterplay