The Global Citizen: Shifting Perceptions

Aya Sameshima of Japan and Marta of Brazil lead their teams through the stadium tunnel.
Aya Sameshima of Japan and Marta of Brazil lead their teams through the tunnel before their 2018 Tournament of Nations match at the Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Brad Smith)

Growing audiences in womens football have demonstrated an evolving view of the global citizen. A global citizen holds much potential for the promotion of change. An example of this is the support shown by Women’s Super League clubs for the LGBTQ+ community, through the Rainbow Laces campaign.

The United Nations appointed the incredible Brazilian footballer and Goodwill Ambassador Marta Rainha, highlighting the shift in who personifies a global citizen.

Chelsea captain Magda Eriksson, reiterated the unacceptability of England’s young girls being let down by the system.

“The fact the FA see young boys’ academies as elite and young girls’ academies as grassroots says it all,” the Sweden international recently told i.

Shifting perceptions

The shifting perceptions of who a global citizen is opens narratives empowering female athletes to use their voice with the confidence of being heard.

Recently, Crystal Palace’s Leigh Nicol spoke out about her private content leaked and the resulting trauma she experienced. However, not all people would have the same resilience rooted within them as Nicol.

Crystal Palace’s Leigh Nicol | Copyright: Edward Payne

Like her favorite tree, Nicol stood strong to persevere through the harshest of weathers. Although, there were moments where she questioned whether she would ever bloom again. Hence highlighting that another person subjected to a similar situation, might not have lived to tell their tale.

Sadly, Nicol’s experience is not uncommon and her speaking out is more than part of a personal healing process. She is raising awareness of the ongoing associated stigma related to these violations, which transcend to clubs, sponsors and perceived audience perceptions.

In turn, such stories highlight the attitudes of clubs. Hence, separating clubs with draconian governance approaches toward women playing for them, from those that care, support and nurture their players whilst recognising them for the true superstars they are.


Nicol showed, by holding on to just enough courage in her time of darkness, she was able to find a light that guided her back to the pitch. It was here that she rebuilt herself enough to find the strength to share her saving grace. Consequently, exhibiting values of a global citizen, whilst capturing the hearts and minds of her audiences.

Unquestionably, there is a long way for the effective protection and safeguarding from of such violations. Leigh Nicol as a football player is using her platform to raise awareness. Fearlessly, she is highlighting the importance of a very real violation that any person can find themselves facing.

At best, the resulting mental health consequences of such violations are deeply and irreversibly scarring and at worst are unmentionable.

A global game for all

The power of a pitch provides a safe place for players and spectators to get back up and try again. It is a place of understanding, compassion and healing. The pitch is a place for all with no exception. Female footballers are using their platform to reiterate this message alongside shifting perceptions of their status as global citizens.

Female footballers are leading the emergence of changing perceptions of what and who a global citizen is.

Whilst women’s football comprises of players, these players are more than just teammates. Audiences to women’s football are more than just spectators. Women’s football provides a web of allies for one another, support systems and a safe haven of solidarity.

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