Partners on the international pitch and in life, Katie McCabe and Ruesha Littlejohn say they have been very moved by the response to their decision last year to come out in public as a couple.
To Ruesha’s declaration that there has been “zero backlash”, Katie adds: “When you’re receiving DMs from people you don’t know, telling you their story and how what we did empowered them to come out to their friends and family, that’s what the campaign was all about.
It was very moving for us. We know we did the right thing.
Ireland captain McCabe says it would be a welcome development if players in the men’s game could feel equally comfortable about coming out as gay.
“I think it’s time now, especially because men’s football has such a massive following,” she says.
“I think it’s important, when you have a platform, to use it in a positive way. But it’s important to take into consideration that they need to be ready themselves because it is a big deal for a lot of people.
“We’ve had a tremendous amount of support from our friends and family, and being in the female game as well it is a lot more accepting. There’s a wider range of the LGBT community in the women’s game. I think that’s important, the environment you’re in. You can be comfortable around us and be who you are.”
Living together means Katie and Ruesha have not had to train in isolation during lockdown which saw the Women’s Super League season in England abandoned. Now, they are both targeting a return to pre-season on July 20 which, for Littlejohn, will mean starting afresh with a new club, having parted company with West Ham.
A big difference for McCabe when she returns with Arsenal will be the absence of her fellow Irish international Louise Quinn who has left the Gunners after three seasons.
“I was gutted to see her go,” Katie says. “I think it will really hit me when I go back for pre-season and I won’t see her, because we’ve obviously not seen each other for a while now.
“For me, my high with her was winning the league. We sat down together after we beat Brighton that day and we said we’d joined that Irish group that wins trophies at Arsenal. To share that moment with her was fantastic.
“But she’s not getting away from me yet - obviously we still have unfinished business with Ireland.”
The national team, currently in poll position in the European Championship qualifying hunt, now know that they will play their final three regulation qualifiers in September, October, and December, though, should they make history by going through, they would then have to wait until 2022 to make their first-ever appearance in the deferred finals.
“I think initially you’re like, ‘aw, it’s another year now’, as you had your sights set on 2021,” McCabe reflects, “but looking at the bigger picture, nobody could have predicted we would go through this pandemic. For us to wait another year is not the worst thing that could happen. The safety of players and everyone else is the most important thing.
“We also have more time to prepare now and get the squad together as we’ve picked up a few injuries during the campaign and it’s about getting those players right. The most important aspect is the time to work together more with Vera (Pauw) and Eileen (Gleeson).”
- Katie McCabe and Ruesha Littlejohn were speaking in support of Aviva’s #SafeToDream Pride message. To help celebrate Pride this year, the Aviva Stadium will light in the colours of Pride on Friday, June 26, with people being encouraged to get on board in their homes and #LightUp4Pride.