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

Sarina Wiegman leads England training
Sarina Wiegman was named Fifa coach of the year in 2017

England manager Sarina Wiegman says she “had to pretend to be a boy” to play football as a child in the Netherlands.

Wiegman, 51, went on to win more than 100 caps for her country as a player before moving into coaching, leading the Netherlands to the women’s Euros title in 2017.

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

The Lionesses beat North Macedonia 8-0 in Wiegman’s first match in charge.

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 said her true identity “sometimes” came close to being revealed, but added it “makes her so happy” that “many things have changed” for women and girls in football.

“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.”

After Friday’s success, the Lionesses take on Luxembourg in their next Women’s World Cup qualifier on Tuesday – a game which will complete the first camp under Wiegman, who began her four-year tenure as England manager on 1 September.

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