Georgia Stanway has spoken out about the online abuse she received after her red card in the Manchester derby, saying it left her feeling “worthless”.
The Manchester City Women forward was sent off after a wild challenge on Leah Galton in the 35th minute against Manchester United Women. City went on to draw the game 2-2.
It was an incident that sparked a barrage of online abuse, leading Stanway to release a statement on social media apologising for the tackle, but condemning the comments she had received.
Now, Stanway has given further insight into just how she handled the situation following the derby game, which saw her miss the next three matches due to suspension.
Speaking to Pat Davison ahead of Man City vs Chelsea on Sunday, live on Sky Sports, the England international said: “I made a tackle against Man Utd, which was very mis-timed. I took the hit on that, took ownership of the situation and apologised to the opposition that it had happened. I was remorseful for the situation that I had caused.
“However, coming onto social media after the game, I felt the need in having to write a statement and apologise. The statement was more put out there because I logged onto my social media and I got thousands of messages telling me I’m never going to be able to have kids, they hope my period hurts – just things that aren’t even associated with football.
“I want to share this with people out there because I don’t want them to be in this situation that I was in. I’m lucky to have only ever received that abuse at that time. I know people get it week in, week out, day in and day out.
“It massively affected me. I remember feeling very low and I cried. I’m not a crier but I cried and I felt worthless.
“I was in a situation where I wasn’t going to be able to get on the grass for three weeks, I wasn’t going to be able to get out there for a long time because we had the international break in between.
“I thought to myself ‘am I actually any good at football?’ – you put yourself into a situation where you just question everything. It was me then coming back to City, seeing the girls, getting back on the grass, back into training, getting the confidence and it was the girls that massively helped me and picked me up from that situation.
“But you question everything about it and think ‘who are these people out there to hurt you and why are they trying to cause that?’. For me, it made me realise who’s important, whose opinions you listen to, whose voices actually matter .
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“People are out there to cause problems or people won’t have necessarily seen the tackle, but they’ve seen someone they can attack. I was at the forefront of that but I’m very thankful for the girls that are around me and my support network that allows me to have the confidence to talk about it now. I want to get back on the grass and put in performances for the team.”
Man City team-mate Alex Greenwood joined Stanway to chat with Davison, and reflected on how an increased interest in the Women’s Super League has brought a higher level of scrutiny.
“It’s nice not to listen to because she’s a really good friend as well and I was going through it with her,” Greenwood added.
“For me on the subject, where the game is at, we’ve asked for this coverage of the game. We want Sky Sports to be involved in the game and we want all these fantastic things. But we’re also not stupid, we know what comes with that – it means more viewers, more people are going to watch our games, more license for people to have an opinion.
“As footballers, we’re completely fine with that, I don’t think that’s something we shy away from. If you want to question our performances and things, that’s absolutely fine, everyone has a right to an opinion on us as footballers.
“But when things become personal and it’s taken away from the pitch, that’s when there’s a problem and that’s something we’re seeing a lot and too much of at the moment.
“How do we change that? I’m still unsure of the answer, if I’m honest. I can speak about Georgia’s situation and to see a player who has given 100 per cent on the pitch and mis-timed a tackle – and she owned the tackle, apologised and accepted the red card because this is football and we’re going to make mistakes – to go through what she went through was just unacceptable.”
Greenwood has her own experiences of online abuse. As a former Man Utd player, she was met with negative comments on social media when signing for Man City in September 2020, having played for a season at Lyon.
She reflected: “It’s the same for me, I’m in such a different headspace than Georgia is with it now. I want through it for a bit of a longer time and I’m a little bit older than Georgia so I can see things from a different way.
“I’ve said this so many times – I’m not stupid, I grew up as a Liverpool fan. If one of my players went from Liverpool to Everton, I would be so angry too and disappointed. So I was completely aware of the situation I was putting myself in and I had no problems with people questioning me as a footballer and my decision.
“But it’s when it becomes a personal thing because ultimately, people don’t know me as a person and some of the things you read about yourself… I used to think back then ‘is that actually me, is that what I’m like ‘, because you doubt yourself a little bit.
“Then over time, you put things into perspective and you think of who really matters, what opinions really matter – it’s your team-mates, your family and those at your football club. If you can differentiate between what’s really important and what you chose to read, that’s where you find the balance.”
Women’s Football Weekend Preview: Special guests Lucy Bronze, Gilly Flaherty and Sophie Haywood preview a huge WSL weekend
On a special Women’s Football Weekend edition of the Essential Football Podcast, digital football journalist Charlotte Marsh and Sky Sports WSL presenter Caroline Barker are joined by a trio of great guests to preview the weekend’s action.
In Part 1, Ballon D’Or runner-up Lucy Bronze gives some unique insight into Everton’s new manager Jean-Luc Vasseur and looks forward to their televised clash with Man Utd this weekend, while explaining why Man City’s season has got off to a rocky start ahead of their game with champions Chelsea.
In part 2, Gilly Flaherty ponders why Tottenham have started the season so well and whether Arsenal can go unbeaten with a north London derby on the way this weekend, and looks forward to her West Ham side taking on Reading on the back of their own solid start.
In part 3, Sophie Haywood explains how Aston Villa have kicked on from last season ahead of their second-city derby with Birmingham, and considers why Leicester have found the jump to the top flight tough as they face Hope Powell’s in-form Brighton side.