LONDON -- The coach of Northern Ireland’s women’s team apologized Wednesday for saying girls and women are susceptible to conceding multiple goals in a short space of time because they are “more emotional than men.”
Kenny Shiels provoked criticism for the comments he made after his team’s 5-0 loss to England on Tuesday which ended Northern Ireland’s chances of qualifying for next year’s Women’s World Cup.
“In the women’s game, you’ll have noticed, I’m sure you will if you go through the patterns,” the 65-year-old Shiels said in the post-match news conference, “when a team concedes a goal, they concede a second one within a very short period of time.
“Right through the whole spectrum of the women’s game, because girls and women are more emotional than men. So, they take a goal going in, they don’t take that very well.”
In a statement released Wednesday, Shiels said he was “sorry for the offense that (the comments) have caused.”
“Last night was a special occasion for the women’s game in Northern Ireland,” he said, “and 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.”
After conceding the opening goal against England in the 26th minute, Northern Ireland let in four more goals in a 27-minute span in the second half. Shiels’ team conceded three goals in nine minutes against Austria on Friday.
Shiels, who has coached Northern Ireland since 2019 after nearly three decades managing in the men's game, described the second goal in such a situation as “an emotional goal.”
Former England and Arsenal striker Ian Wright said Shiels was “talking foolishness.”
“Talking about emotional women!” Wright wrote on Twitter. “Didn’t that man see how many times I was crying on the PITCH!”
Siobhan Chamberlain, the former goalkeeper for England’s women team, said Shiels needed to be “aware of the message that your words can carry.”
“We all know — and we get it drilled into us as footballers — the five minutes after you concede a goal, the five minutes after you score a goal across the board, not just in women’s football, in men’s football as well, you’re more likely to concede a goal, you’re more likely to potentially go on to score again,” she told the BBC.
“That’s not just in the women’s game, that’s in the men’s game as well. And to just generalize that to women is a slightly bizarre comment.”
Northern Ireland played in front of a crowd of 15,348 at Windsor Park in Belfast — a record for a women’s match in the country.
The team has reached the European Championship for the first time and will face Norway, Austria and host England in group play in July.
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