football

Nikita Parris aims to use Euro 2022 to show ‘pathway’ for ‘representation’ open at elite level



Nikita Parris is determined to impress at Euro 2022 this summer, for more than just the obvious reasons.

Of course, with England one of the favourites, there will be huge expectation on the side’s biggest players to perform and secure glory on home soil.

But Parris, 28, also wants to show younger girls and women that they can achieve their dreams no matter their background or the challenges facing them.

The 65-cap attacker has spoken about a relative lack of representation of Black athletes within the Women’s Super League at present, despite clear strides made on that front compared to when she was a youngster herself. And that’s where she feels being on the big stage can play a meaningful role in helping to show the “pathway” remains available and open to those who want to follow her career trajectory.

“[When I was growing up] I didn’t feel like when I watched games that there were many black women playing in the league and there’s still not today. There’s less than 12% currently playing in the league,” she said on the Reign with Josh Smith podcast.

“So I know how young women, young black women feel growing up in today’s world because there’s not much representation at the highest level, where they see a pathway or they feel a sense of, ‘I can attain that dream.’

“But for me, that’s the challenge off the pitch for me to help make sure that they do feel that there’s a pathway and they have an opportunity to have those role models to be able to look up to and to aspire to feel like they’re walking in the same footsteps. You know, I remember watching Rachel Yankey… so there were players out there that I could look up to, but it was only a handful. Plus I could name them probably off both hands. So for me, it’s important that we move forward and there’s more numbers.”

Speaking on the wider improvement of the women’s game, Parris voiced her frustration that some can only measure its quality against the expectation they have from watching men in action.

The two should be taken on their own merits, she says, rather than dictating the direction the women’s game should take.

“I think the most frustrating part is how people directly compare the men’s and the women’s game because men and women, historically, physically, emotionally, mentally are very different human beings. Men are built in a certain way that allows them to have more power, more physical presence than a woman has.

“So for me, when you try and compare the men’s game, and they say the women’s game is much slower, that’s a real frustration because people tend to always directly compare and never see the beauty in what the women’s game does produce. There’ll always be these direct comparisons to the women’s game.”

England start their campaign on Wednesday at Old Trafford, playing Austria in their Group A opener. Further fixtures against Norway and Northern Ireland will follow, before the knockout phase begins on 20 July.



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