“I’m thinking, ‘Oh my god! Another one of these seasons where we’re not safe to come to the football’,” the Chelsea midfielder, Marco van Ginkel, said. The question was not hypothetical but reality, after the announcement in September that the West Ham defender, James Collins, was banned for six matches for his racial abuse of Sol Campbell. In the years since Chelsea’s players supported John Terry in 2014, whose own ejection from a match stemmed from chants of “Off he goes,” there has been a flurry of reports of what a toxic environment football is often portrayed to be, even as its many complexities and value systems, along with its violence and ill-treatment of women, are too often ignored. The Guardian is launching a new 10th anniversary project, offering in-depth reporting and analysis of the issues. Have an opinion, a reader perspective or a deeper story you would like to share? Our reporters can reach you here or email us at [email protected].
For the women’s footballers, “in which people are constantly getting hurt, the games end prematurely, players are segregated, referees are not allowed to be their real selves,” they said.
Shelley Kerr speaks out about the abuse she faced after playing John Terry Read more
When Chelsea’s midfielder Jess Carter joined the playing group, the women had created a rolling feed of the videos showing themselves and other players – among them Lewis Dunk, Magdalena Eriksson and Domenica Poppics – raising the national flags. On the b-roll they began uploading clips of themselves in suits and professional-looking clothing and three-quarter length sweatshirts. “That is for whatever happens to people that are in suits. It was from the guys, too. We had the number 4, 5, and 6, and that was from the guys,” said midfielder Magdalena Eriksson.
The club did not have a player away at European Championship 2015, and did not have a club team until Eriksson joined Chelsea in May. Shortly after she joined, she had her first touch of the ball and immediately headed the ball straight up in the air. An attacker, the match became the first match in which female players struck first.
“We don’t like losing and we hate to lose. It’s an important moment in the game. There is also respect in the rivalry. It was our first chance to see the other side play and the jubilation and excitement on their faces was really impressive. It was really, really good that women are going to play,” Eriksson said.
Shelley Kerr has taken charge of Chelsea Women this season, and has been at the club since 2015
In 1989, when Chelsea beat Manchester United 3-2 at Old Trafford, the striker Sonia O’Sullivan had a solo goal and broke a Football Association record, the first time a player had scored in every game they played.
“I remember walking off and just smelling burnt plastic on the pitch, or plastic in the stands. Because you just couldn’t believe how awful it was,” said Eriksson.