Ian Wright gives rousing speech on 'girls playing football' after England reach ...
BBC

Former footballer Ian Wright was a legend on the pitch for Arsenal and England and, having made the successful transition to broadcasting in his retirement, that legendary status has only grown.

During the Women’s Euro 2022 coverage, Wright has come to the fore as an advocate and fan of the sport, showing amazing support to England’s Lionesses and calling for a long-lasting legacy from the tournament.

Here are some of the legendary moments from the footballing icon.

Responding to comments that women footballers are too “emotional”

Wright’s support for the women’s game started long before the Euros and in April, after he responded to controversial comments from Northern Ireland coach Kenny Shiels.

Shiels claimed: “Right through the whole spectrum of the women's game, because girls and women are more emotional than men. So, they take a goal going in not very well.”

But, Wright was having none of it as he hit back at Sheils’ sexist comments, saying he was “talking foolishness”.

Taking to Twitter, Wright said: “Kenny Shiels talking foolishness! Talking about emotional women ! Didn’t that man see how many times I was crying on the PITCH! Kmt [kiss my teeth].”

Calling out Alan Sugar’s remarks about women commentators

The Apprentice host Alan Sugar was another person to come up against Wright after making false comments about female commentators of the Women’s European Championships.

Tweeting during a Euros match, Sugar wrongly claimed that the match was being commentated on only by women – in fact, Jonathan Pearce was also on the commentary team for the game.

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Despite being informed of his mistake, a few days later, Sugar doubled down on his comments, writing: “I was pleased to see my old mate Ian Wright was given the opportunity to commentate on the ladies game last night.

“I wonder if my earlier tweet below touched a nerve. Of course BBC sport will say not at all, Ian was already lined up for it.”

Once again, Wright wasn’t having it, and replied to the tweet with a video response calling out Sugar’s “f**king foolishness”.

Wright said he’d been booked to do the Euros for over a year and mocked the fact that Sugar believed his tweet had any bearing on his involvement in the Women’s Euros.

He said: “You actually, in your mind, you actually thought that after you sent that tweet that the BBC phoned me up, never mind we’ve been ready and booked for a year, you think they called me up and said, ‘Ian, you’ve got to get back from Germany ASAP, Alan Sugar has tweeted, we can’t upset him, we need to get you on’.

“You genuinely believe that happened, because I need to know, because that says to me my god, your ego is totally out of control.”

Speech about the Euros 2022 legacy for women and girls

While wild celebrations were underway after England smashed Sweden 4-0 to make it to the final of the Euros, Wright gave a compelling speech about the legacy the tournament needs to leave.

Wright said: “Whatever happens in the final now, if girls are not allowed to play football just like the boys can in their P.E. after this tournament then what are we doing?

“We've got to make sure that they are able to play and get the opportunity to do this because it's going to inspire a lot of people.

“If there's no legacy to this, like what we saw with the [2012] Olympics, if there's no legacy after this then what are we doing? Because girls should be able to play," he added.

“This is the proudest I've ever felt of any England side. This is what it's all about.”

Criticising “racist” coverage of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON)

Wright’s support of football internationally was made clear when the ex-England star called out the media and those within football for their coverage of the African tournament.

Speaking during an Instagram live broadcast, Wright said he felt the AFCON tournament coverage was tinged with racism and general disrespect.

He said: “Is there ever a tournament more disrespected than the Africa Cup of Nations? There is no greater honour, none as a sports person than representing your country. The coverage is completely tinged with racism.”

His comments came after a journalist was criticised for asking African Ajax striker Sebastien Haller if he was leaving the Dutch league to take part in the tournament.

Haller replied: “This shows disrespect for Africa. Would this [question] ever have been asked to a European player towards a European Championship?

“Of course, I will go to represent Ivory Coast. That is the highest honour.”

In his broadcast, Wright praised Haller, saying: “I have got to give a shout out to the players like Sebastien Haller who are taking a stand against the media backlash, plus Patrick Vieira for coming out and speaking about this.

“This is why it is important to have a black manager who can let people understand where his roots are and how important this tournament is for African people.”

Speaking up against knife crime

Wright used his platform to speak out against knife crime and said cuts to youth centres were linked to the many “lives being wasted” to knives.

He made the comments as his former club Arsenal launched an initiative alongside actor Idris Elba called “No More Red”.

The initiative saw Arsenal wearing white shirts, instead of their usual red home kit, in a game to raise awareness of the issue and to call for “no more bloodshed”.

Speaking about the campaign, Wright said: “Being a dad, granddad, great-granddad coming up to be honest, but the fact is I was fortunate when I was younger to have the spaces, have the youth workers.

“When you look at the last 10 years, 750 youth centres closed down, 4,500 people out of work, youth workers, people you build relationships with, people that know you, and then when you look at the lives that are being wasted, this campaign is about inspiration and action.”

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