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Fran Kirby: Chelsea and England striker on body image and social media abuse

Fran Kirby: Chelsea and England striker on body image and social media abuse

video caption, “A lot of people look at athletes as robots” – Kirby on body image and abuse

“I've had comments where people have said: 'Fran played really well, what a game, but she looks great today.' I'm like: “Why is this comment necessary?” “My body shape shouldn't matter.”

Chelsea and England midfielder Fran Kirby, 30, first Issues raised around “stigma” On nutrition in women's football and the pressure on players about “their weight and how we look on TV” in November, which she said was linked to the rising profile of the sport.

At the time, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes praised Kirby for tackling the “problem” of “underfueling and underloading” which “comes with constant demands to look a certain way and, unfortunately, a vitriolic environment that comes from social media”.

Speaking to BBC Sport, midfielder Kirby said: “I read things about myself and thought: ‘Oh really, is this what people think of me?’ Or: ‘Is this what I really look like?’ It still affects me.” But I'm better at dealing with that.

“It's really important to stress that of course we are professional athletes and we have to be fit to play our sport, but body shape does not determine whether you are fit enough. A lot of people see athletes as robots.

“I'm done with the comments and so are my teammates. It's a problem but I don't think it's just a problem in women's football. I think it's bigger than that.”

“Coming back from injury, you're never going to be in the best shape of your life,” Kirby said.

“It was very difficult for me a few years ago after I had a heart problem. I was out of the house for a while and gained some weight because I physically couldn't do anything.

“It's not like we train for a week and suddenly you're all set and ready to go. It was hard to read those comments.”

“Your body shape doesn't matter”

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Fran Kirby started every match for England at Euro 2022 as they won the tournament on home soil

Kirby says she has “no fear” of raising these issues now because she has international experience and although it's not easy, she has found ways to deal with them.

“I've been around long enough to have suffered the abuse I had growing up and seeing it on social media, but you don't get used to it, and there are still things you read,” she said.

“A younger player who might receive comments like that, they could end up not eating and having to compete at a high level. You see their performance decline and it really affects them.

“I felt it was important for people to realize that as long as you are fit to play your sport at the highest level, and perform consistently well, body shape should not be an issue.

Kirby has received letters from other players raising concerns about teammates who they believe have body image issues.

She says there's “no one answer” on how to deal with it because “everyone is different”, but it's important they receive support.

“It's recognizing the time someone's going through, not controlling the situation, but helping them and guiding them. I've had conversations with players I know and said, 'Okay, you've got to eat this,'” Kirby said. .'

“I knew when I tried to stop refueling as much, it affected my performance and how I felt. So I just tried to provide as much guidance as I could. Older, more mature players are definitely in a good place.” To do that.

“I didn't feel pain, it was comfortable.”

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Fran Kirby's recent knee injury ruled her out of the Women's World Cup last summer as England reached the final in Sydney.

Kirby's battles with injury and illness did not prevent her from having a successful career.

“It's not easy but it's my latest,” she said [knee injury] It was probably easier to come back from because once I had surgery, I didn't feel any pain. That was a relief in itself.

“Of course, missing the World Cup is never a nice feeling. I was very proud to watch the girls but there was always this feeling inside me, I wish I was there.

“But I made a decision very early [after the surgery] I won't let it affect me. I didn't feel like it would do me any good.

“It was still tough. I'm not going to sit here and say it was the best time of my life as I was going through rehab while everyone else was at the World Cup – because it wasn't. But I tried to stay in a good place mentally.

“I wanted to be ready for the start of the season and to be able to do this, it's all worth it.”

“I still feel like I have a lot to offer.”

Image source, Getty Images

Comment on the photo, Fran Kirby remained fit for the first half of this season and returned to play for England in October

Kirby's goal for the rest of the season is simple – stay fit. The Euro 2022 winner has been available for every match so far this campaign.

She admits to being “frustrated” with her body in the past but believes her love for the game is what keeps her going.

She added: “You wonder how many times you can go through something. It's not easy at all. I also get frustrated with my body and its limitations.”

“Playing football is something I still enjoy. I still have that competitive nature in me. I will keep playing until that fades away.

Kirby has six months remaining on her Chelsea contract – what are her plans for the future?

“At the moment, there have been no talks between me and the club. I want to continue playing football and continue playing football at a high level,” she said.

“I still feel I have a lot to offer wherever I am, whether it's at Chelsea or elsewhere. But I love the club. I've been here a long time and I have great friendships with the players and staff.

“I still want to compete and play consistently, so that's obviously the decision to make.”

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