Kick It Out
Claire Rafferty Fri 22 Jul 2016
Hey! Welcome to the first of a regular series of blogs for the official Chelsea website, where I hope to keep you up to date with everything that's happening on and off the pitch with the Chelsea Ladies...
It will usually be a fairly light-hearted affair, but I'm going to start things off by tackling quite a serious topic as this Sunday's game against Doncaster Rovers Belles at Wheatsheaf Park is our designated Kick It Out fixture.
Equality is a massive issue and, as we all know, football is a universal game and no one should be identified by their faith, race, sexual orientation their gender. That goes for all of society.
The lower levels of women's football have a reputation as being, for want of a better phrase, ‘full of dykes’, which is something that really bugs me. It’s something we hear a lot and, like all derogatory language, it’s totally unacceptable in football. Yes, there are lesbians within the game and the only reason why they feel they can be so open about their sexual orientation is because, in my opinion, women's football is a more accepting environment. Statistically speaking, there must be gay footballers in the men's pro game, but they just aren't out (beyond the confines of their team mates) because it's not a comfortable thing to do and they worry about the reaction they’ll get. The culture of fear this creates takes away from the football by scrutinising something that is totally irrelevant to how you perform. Being black, white or Asian, gay, straight or bi doesn't determine how good a footballer you are.
I haven't actually encountered anyone being singled out for their race or sexual orientation on the pitch. Perhaps when I was younger and playing at a lower level I can recall spectators calling people names relating to their sexual orientation and things like that, but certainly not now. On Twitter you get the odd reference to women being ‘better off in the kitchen’ or other equally idiotic statement, but the fan base seems to have moved with the times in women's football and I know our supporters are absolutely brilliant – they create such a friendly environment at Wheatsheaf Park and I speak for all of the players when I say how much we adore you all.
Social media is an issue as you get these keyboard warriors without an identity – they are not brave enough to say it to people's faces. I think a lot of it is down to ignorance and needing to educate people, which is why Kick It Out and the work they do is so important.
Thank goodness we don't experience it out on the pitch. We don't need any more battles and proving to everyone that we're good enough to play football is difficult enough. I think the stereotypes are fading and perceptions are changing and this sort of campaign can only help to keep things moving in the right direction.
Speaking of moving in the right direction, the game itself is almost a must-win fixture after our defeat against Arsenal last weekend. Their winning goal came directly after I'd missed a clear chance at the other end, following which I received plenty of banter and light-hearted stick on Twitter about my performance. And do you know what? I'd much rather that than no one watching it at all. If I miss a sitter in a London derby and no one is around to see it, did it really happen?! You can tell I'm clutching at straws.
I'm sure Alex Scott got far more banter than me for her own goal. She's a good friend of mine and so, naturally, I thanked her very much for the own goal and gave her a bit of stick. Unfortunately she had the last laugh.
After the game I had a barbecue for friends and family and Carly Telford, our former captain and goalkeeper, came along, which was really nice. She's had an operation on her ankle and was down in London seeing the surgeon. She's always welcome at my house. The weather was lovely so we had to make the most of it, although I got told off when I went inside straight away and put the game on. I just had to get it out of my system – you can't dwell on these things too much.
I've watched it back so many times and I think I just went in for it and expected to get there before it bounced. I ended up nearly catching it between my legs and I don't think I could do that again if I tried.
We were a bit unlucky and we should have been awarded the most blatant penalty I've ever seen. Last season that bit of luck was with us, but we need to stop them going in at the back and get back to scoring plenty of goals. Hopefully we can rectify that in the Doncaster game on Sunday.