Northern Ireland Senior Women’s captain Marissa Callaghan has said the team “collectively stand by” manager Kenny Shiels, despite his comments about women being “more emotional” than men.
Shiels sparked controversy with remarks made in a post-match press conference, following Northern Ireland’s 5-0 defeat at the hands of England.
Despite the result, the game marked a special moment for the women’s team, with Windsor Park sold out for the first time.
That was, however, overshadowed when the team boss drew criticism for suggesting female footballers were more likely to concede goals in quick succession due to an excess of emotion once one went in.
High-profile figures like former Arsenal and England striker Ian Wright poured score on the remarks, with Wright branding them “foolishness” on Twitter.
He added: “Didn’t that man see how many times I was crying on the pitch!”
Wright’s comments were welcomed by former Arsenal Women’s player Alex Scott.
However, Marissa Callaghan has now also taken to Twitter to share a statement in which she appears to speak for the whole team.
In it, she says: “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.”
Callaghan went on to hail Shiels as “a man of integrity who cares for us like we are family” and credited him with having “transformed the game here in Northern Ireland”.
The captain added: “We have qualified for a major tournament because he transformed our mindset.”
Callaghan went on to say that the team were looking forward to their preparations for the Euros this summer, following the “pivotal moment” of having sold out the National Stadium at Windsor.
Shiels has apologised for his comments and the offence caused, adding: “I am proud to manage a group of players who are role models for so many girls, and boys, across the country.
“I am an advocate for the women’s game and passionate about developing opportunities for women and girls to flourish.”