England manager Sarina Wiegman: I had to pretend to be a boy to play football as a child
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England manager Sarina Wiegman: I had to pretend to be a boy to play football as a child

Sarina Wiegman, the England manager, says she had to "appear to be a boy" as a child in the Netherlands to play football.

Wiegman, 51, went on to gain over 100 caps for her country as a player before transitioning to coaching and leading the Netherlands to the 2017 Women's Euros victory.

"When I started playing football as a six-year-old girl we weren't allowed to play, so I played illegally," she said.

In Wiegman's debut match in command, the Lionesses defeated North Macedonia 8-0.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast, she added: "I had very short hair, looked a little bit maybe like a boy, my parents were really OK and I had a twin brother, so we just started to play and everyone said that's OK.

"It wasn't normal then and now it's just normal, whether you're a boy or a girl, you can play football and that's just great. It was actually crazy before, that you couldn't, but that's just the way it is in development I guess."

Wiegman admitted that her true identity "occasionally" came close to being disclosed, but that "many things have improved" for women and girls in football, which "makes her so glad."

"I've lived through this whole development and that's so nice to be aware of," she added.

"I'm really happy when I see little kids playing, whether it's boys or girls, I just love to see them play and love to see them having fun because it starts with fun.

"I hope for every kid there's a pathway, whether you're competitive or whether you just want to play for fun and not at a high level, and then at all stages and all ages you can play football. I'm very interested in it but for now, I really have my focus on the senior women's team."

Following Friday's victory, the Lionesses face Luxembourg in their second Women's World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, completing the first camp under Wiegman, who took over as England manager on September 1 for a four-year term.

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