Zelem: Parents used to shout stick from the side

Tuesday 14 March 2023 13:57

Katie Zelem epitomises the word 'captain'.

The Manchester United Women skipper leads by example, scores and assists crucial goals and most importantly inspires our young supporters.

The England international has had quite the journey throughout her career. Zelem started off in United's youth system and also played for both Liverpool and Juventus before returning to captain her childhood club in 2018.

In an interview to mark International Women's Day, which we're celebrating all month, Katie outlines the key obstacles she overcame when pursuing a career in football.

Zelem: Surround yourself with positive people


In our Q&A, Katie reveals her role models and offers advice for young girls wanting to play professionally.

"I think when I was younger, it was an all-boys team that I used to play in and a lot of the lads, and to be honest mostly the parents, used to shout stick from the side," she said.

"They would shout things like 'you shouldn’t have a girl on your team, football’s not for girls'. I had a lot of friends at the time that played football at school, whatever it may be, and a lot of girls stopped playing at such a young age because of things like that.

"They’re not strong enough, they don’t want it enough to be able to overcome the heckling from the side and I think that shouldn’t ever be the case.

"You shouldn’t have to choose between being shouted at from the side or pursuing something that you love.

"So, for me, I was lucky enough I had a really supportive family that really pushed me and could take me everywhere but unfortunately that’s not the same for everyone."

Zelem believes the increased visibility of women's football provides pathways of less resistance for young girls who watch the likes of United Women and want to emulate their idols.

"I think it’s incredible and I think when I was growing up I used to watch Fara Williams play, and I was lucky enough to be able to share the field with her and play midfield alongside her. 

"So, for me, that was an incredible opportunity and now I see little girls and little boys with our names on the back of their shirts and it’s incredible that we can be role models for people growing up because we didn’t have that pathway coming through.  

"So now somebody can look at me, look at some of the other girls at Manchester United and say, 'I want to be like them'."

United celebrate International Women’s Day


The club is running a range of content, events, and campaigns aimed at supporting, developing, and recognising women.


On Saturday 25 March (17:30 GMT), United Women are hosting West Ham in a WSL match at the Theatre of Dreams.

Want to be part of a record-breaking crowd? Secure your ticket now!