'Seeing it is believing it'

Friday 08 March 2024 11:45

Strong independent women are blazing a trail across cultures for future generations, with many of our women's team at the forefront of this charge.

Introducing: Stronger Together.

United fan and footballer-turned-freestyler Kaljit Atwal recently sat down with players from our men's and women's first teams to discuss their inspirations, with the likes of Serena Williams, Alex Scott, and Michelle Obama all being named, as well as our very own Mary Earps.

Victor Lindelof champions the impact of tennis legend Williams, who he sees as an idol for both men and women.

"I think she's one of the best ever," expressed the United defender. "I mean, just look at all the things that she's won, and I'll know exactly now how many Grand Slams, 23 or something like that.

"So, I mean, she's an amazing inspiration to a lot of people, both men and women, so boys and girls. So it's amazing for us to witness that."

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Following in Williams' footsteps is 19-year-old Coco Gauff, who won the US Open in 2023. Gauff is someone Canadian United defender Jayde Riviere looks to as a trailblazer, personifying something she felt was lacking in sport growing up.

"Serena Williams, Coco, she's young and she’s somebody to look up and feel like she's winning Grand Slams, she is like participating in all of these huge events that are pinnacle for her sport and she’s a young girl that’s doing it and I think that's a trailblazer," she said.

"That’s someone you look at and be like, if she's able to do it like that why can’t I? I think that that is that representation that we need to see more.

"Now it's becoming more of a natural thing, which is so good because now you don't have to have those side conversations about, you know, woman empowerment, independence because we're living it now. And I think even being trailblazers ourselves, being people that are able to have younger girls look up to us and be like, I want to play for Manchester United or I want to play in the WSL."

Another tennis star, Caroline Wozniacki, hails from Denmark, the homeland of Reds midfielder Christian Eriksen. The 32-year-old sees the strength and resilience that Wozniacki showed to return to the sport after a year out and perform in more Grand Slams as a key trait that subverts societal norms and can therefore inspire young girls.

"Wozniacki, who also obviously was a, is a tennis player, she retired and then she came back and is still performing," he began. "So, that also just, yeah, shows that you can, even after giving birth, be able to come back and play."

Jayde Riviere says

"Coco [Gauff], she's young and she’s somebody to look up to and feel like she's winning Grand Slams, she is like participating in all of these huge events that are the pinnacle for her sport and she’s a young, young girl that’s doing it. I think that's a trailblazer."

All of the sporting stars mentioned so far have huge platforms, something that United defender Diogo Dalot believes can be used to cause further positive change, as we continue to strive for equality and further representation within football, and outside it.

He cites Michelle Obama as a key inspiration of his, for the example she sets to those who aspire to follow in her footsteps.

"I think Michelle Obama had a real impact," he said. "A big impact on women and obviously everybody looked up to her as a role model as in this is something to pursue just because of her work and what she was doing. So Michelle Obama's a great example of a powerful woman. There's a lot of them."

Diogo Dalot says

"I think Michelle Obama had a real impact, a big impact on women. Everybody looked look up to her as a role model just because of her work and what she was doing."

For all the impact of women outside of the sport, there has also been a remarkable growth in women's football in recent times. Reds defender Evie Rabjohn, 18, looked up to the likes of former Arsenal star Alex Scott when she was growing up, and wants to do the same for future generations.

"Alex Scott is a big one. I think the way that she obviously came through as a footballer and was obviously very good at that and then has made a new career from that and is now a pundit," she explained.

"I think that the way that she's got herself from one to the other, but still doing really, really well and is still in the field that she likes, but just as a different aspect, I think that's really great and really also important for young children.

"We're in a position where we can promote the game, we can promote people's futures and, at the end of the day, we want to help young children to be who they are and get to where they want to be by us playing football and being female."

Hayley Ladd says

"[Billie Eilish] is a trailblazer in the way that she dresses and the way that she showcases herself and her talent. I think that just that fearlessness is what I am seeing and I think, yeah, they're just so powerful with the way that they present themselves, with the way they present their talent."

United attacker Geyse's key inspiration was Brazil icon Marta, but since becoming a Red in the summer she has seen the influence Earps has on and off the pitch.

"For me, Marta," she said, discussing her idols. "I’m her fellow countrywoman. Marta in women’s football, there’s nothing to say about her, she was my inspiration.

"There are several here at the club, like Mary (Earps). She is an example for the many girls who want to be players, want to be goalkeepers. And Mary is an example for them, they want to be like Mary, so for me they are examples."