This is the ready made response Jill Scott has for anyone who questions women’s football

Former Lioness Jill Scott spoke to Metro to share her view on what makes a true hardcore football fan (Picture: Ed Sykes/Sportsphoto/Allstar via Getty Images)

For former Lioness Jill Scott, she’s used to fielding endless ‘misconceptions’ about women’s football.

The 37-year-old retired in 2022 after winning 161 caps for her country, and has since gone on to become a pundit, coffee shop owner and I’m A Celebrity’s Queen of The Jungle. But she remains poised to defend her former teammates if they’re ever criticised.

‘The biggest misconceptions seem to come from people who haven’t been to watch a women’s game’, she tells Metro. ‘You get someone say “women can’t play football” and I go “oh, what game have you watched?” And it turns out they haven’t watched one at all.

‘With anything in life, you don’t want to throw something down anyone’s throats. People have the opportunity to like something or not like something. And that’s fine. But if you haven’t given something an opportunity, you can’t have a negative stance on it.

‘That’s what annoys me the most.’

Supporters of Barca at the Canaletes fountain in Barcelona on May 25, 2024. (Picture: Robert Bonet/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Alexia Putellas bows to fans after scoring for Barcelona (Picture: Ramsey Cardy – Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Jill hopes to reach a stage where people can say they’re a football fan without distinguishing if it’s the men’s or women’s game. That is something demonstrated in Spain, where Jill was speaking to mark the Women’s Champions League final, where Barcelona fans told Metro about their ‘one club’ mindset.

Jill adds: ‘For me, it’s about getting away from the fact it’s “men’s football” and “women’s football”. It’s just football, isn’t it? We tend to highlight when something is women’s football, when we wouldn’t do that for men’s.

‘I hope it can just be seen as “football fans” in the future.’

Jill was speaking as part of Heineken’s ‘Cheers to the Hardcore Fans’ campaign, which is working to transform what it means to be a dedicated supporter.

Ahead of Metro’s interview with the Lioness in Bilbao’s NH hotel, Jill was stopped by two Irish fans who excitedly spoke to her about the Women’s Super League (WSL) and their favourite team, Arsenal.

Jill Scott signs autographs for fans during Soccer Aid for Unicef 2023 at Old Trafford on June 11, 2023 in Manchester, England (Picture: Matt McNulty/Getty Images)

Jill Scott takes a selfie with fans ahead of the UEFA EURO 2024 European qualifierbetween England and Italy on October 17, 2023 in London, England. (Picture: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

‘I was a Man City player for eight years and they were hardcore Arsenal fans’, Jill recalls from the brief interaction.

‘You might think “oh, maybe they’ll say something about the rivalry.” But they just wanted to share that their favourite Arsenal player was Katie McCabe and tell me about their club.

‘On social media, things can sometimes feel like your reality. But I can honestly say that I’ve never had a negative fan encounter to my face. It’s always positive.

‘Someone came into the coffee shop the other day [Jill runs BOXX2BOXX COFFEE in Manchester, named after her infamous role as a box-to-box midfielder] and they had a tattoo of Lucy Bronze’s signature on her arm. She asked me to sign a piece of paper and said she was going to get my signature done as a tattoo as well, which was brilliant.’

Jill says even if it’s just ‘five seconds’, she always makes sure to stop for fans. She knows how much of a difference a small interaction can make. On a cold night at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, she waited nervously until 11pm for David Beckham to emerge from the stadium after a match.

David Beckham made a lasting impression on a young Jill Scott (Picture: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

‘I was about 13 and I’d just seen England play against Turkey,’ Jill recalls. ‘I remember at the time my mum didn’t want me to go to the match as she didn’t think it was going to be the best atmosphere – which shows how things have moved on. But I ended up having one of the best days of my life. David Beckham gave me an autograph and I was over the moon.

‘I remember being younger and a couple players – who I won’t name – walking past and not giving us that autograph, and I remember being so gutted. If you give someone just five seconds of your time, it can make such a difference. So I try to stop and speak to fans for everybody.

‘Without the fans, football would be nothing. I remember being on our bus on the way to the Euros 2022 final and the road was a sea of different coloured shirts. The sun was shining and there was so much happiness. I remember turning to Beth Mead and going “look, that woman has your name face-painted all across her head” and telling Ellen White “look, someone’s got your shirt on.”

‘Those fans really gave us the energy to go and win for them.’

Jill Scott won the 2022 Euros with the Lionesses (Picture: Richard Sellers/Soccrates/Getty Images)

Jill Scott hopes fans don’t have to differentiate if they’re men’s or women’s fans (Picture: Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Jill estimates she had around 150 people watching in person each game when she played for Everton between 2006 and 2013. Now, with sold-out stadiums and record-attendances, she hopes that momentum continues with proper investment and support for the women’s game. She also says it is important for fans to hold onto the ‘core values’ of what it means to be a supporter.

Whether it be Ultras breaking chairs ahead of matches, hooliganism in the stands or violence outside stadiums, football fans can often get bad press. But Heineken’s ‘Cheers to the Hardcore Fans’ campaign is working to reclaim the word ‘hardcore’ and highlight the stories of people who go above and beyond to back their team.

Online, Heineken is sharing stories of fans who name pets after players, wake up at 3am to travel to away games, or form fan-groups inspired by their team. To Jill, that’s showing true support.

She adds: ‘When we think about sport, we think about negative stuff which comes from a crowd. There should never be any trouble at a football match, or in any sport.

Jill Scott is working with Heineken on the ‘Cheers to the Real Hardcore Fans’ campaign (Picture: Heineken/Getty Images)

‘When I started this campaign with Heineken, it definitely challenged my perception. I think when people hear the words “hardcore fan,” there is a perception it’s a negative thing. But Heineken has really changed the narrative on that. There’s hardcore fans I’ve heard about like nuns singing for their team every Sunday, people who named their dogs after their favourite players, people who get three flights to reach a game.

‘Before this campaign, if you asked anyone about hardcore fans, I wonder if they’d have said it’s a positive thing. But spreading this positivity, it’s infectious. Everybody has a story.

‘We’re living in an era where the level of sport is so high, so let’s just go out there and enjoy it.’

Metro travelled to Bilbao with Heineken’s ‘Cheers to the Hardcore Fans’ campaign. Find out more about Heineken’s work to support the men’s and women’s game by clicking here.

READ MORE: How Barca supporters are changing what it means to be a ‘hardcore’ fan

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