The recent FIFA Women’s World Cup France was a game changer for football. As the series progressed, the players gained huge traction with supporters for their skill, drive and guts. A record 750 million watched on TV. Channelling the excitement, sports pundits are predicting a brave new world where superstar female soccer players are awarded the same terms and conditions as their male counterparts.
At home, the mood is equally upbeat. In a recent Boots Ireland survey, 76% of respondents said female sports stars should be equally celebrated as their male counterparts.
All well and aspirational, but the pay divide between professional male and female players could not be wider.
Irish women’s football captain Katie McCabe puts it diplomatically: “Women footballers don’t have the financial security that the male players have.”
However, she’s not about to sulk. Aged 23, she already has a retirement plan in mind. “I’d like to get into coaching. I’ve applied for a UFEA B course in coaching, and then go on to take a UFEA A course. It’s a long process.”
From Kilnamanagh, Co Dublin, her fitness has been transformed since joining the Arsenal squad four years ago.
She’s open about her relationship with Scottish professional footballer Ruesha Littlejohn — “my family love her”.
Ireland has come a long way, she says. “We’re growing as a country, progressing and going in the right way, which is important.”
What shape are you in?
Being a professional footballer you have to maintain a level of fitness which is monitored. At Arsenal, we have nutritionists and strength and conditioning coaches. In a typical week, we would have three pitch session each lasting an hour and 30 minutes to two hours and two to three gym sessions lasting an hour to an hour and a half with a match at the weekend.
What are your healthiest eating habits?
It really helps to have a nutritionist to advise you on how to get enough protein and carbs. I like to cook my own meals. I make a good cottage pie with lean turkey mince, sweet potato, carrots, peas and onion. The team at Arsenal encourages you to cook for yourself. When you eat out you don’t know what’s in your food.
What are your guiltiest pleasures?
I’m a sucker for chocolate. My favourite is Cadbury’s Mint Crisp. You can’t get it in England, so I stock up on it when I’m at home.
What would keep you awake at night?
Because the training schedule is so demanding, I find myself looking forward to bedtime. But if we have an evening game, your mind is more alert and you could find yourself lying awake in bed with Netflix on.
How do you relax?
On a day off I like going for breakfast or lunch with friends. When I go home, I like to spend time with my family. I’m one of 11 children, so it’s mayhem.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
David Beckham. I’d like to sit down and have a little chat with him about how successful he has been as a footballer and in his life after football.
What’s your favourite smell?
I do like my perfume, it’s Versace. I wear it all the time.
What would you like to change about your appearance?
I used to dislike that my legs were so muscley, particularly in skinny jeans. Now I embrace it. I’m a footballer and that’s who I am.
When is the last time you cried?
This morning, when I had to wake up at 5am. I had a little cry. When you lose a match, you’d shed a tear knowing you could have gotten more out of the game.
What traits do you least like in others?
I can’t stand selfishness and rudeness.
What traits do you least like about yourself?
I’m too laid back and always missing phonecalls.
Do you pray?
I do. I light a candle when I get back to my local church.
What would cheer up your day?
If you have a long list of things to do in the morning and in the evening you can sit down, relax and say you’ve done everything.
- Boots Ireland is kicking off a three-year sponsorship, in partnership with FAI, of the Women’s National Football Team, with the aim to boost confidence in girls and women.