Leah Williamson: Promoting equality and togetherness

Ahead of the Lionesses’ opening Arnold Clark Cup game against South Korea tomorrow, captain Leah Williamson spoke to the media at St. George’s Park. Impetus’ Nathan Edwards was there (15/2/23).

Above: England captain Leah Williamson in action during training yesterday. Photo: Ben Phillips for Impetus.

Leah Williamson said she would wear the OneLove armband in the upcoming Arnold Cup in support of male Czech Republic international Jakub Jankto, who came out as gay this week, and the England captain wants to carry on wearing the armband at the 2023 World Cup.

FIFA banned several men’s international sides from wearing the OneLove armband at the 2022 Qatar World Cup, including England’s Harry Kane.

The Lionesses’ captain revealed she would continue to support the OneLove armband in England’s upcoming Arnold Cup fixtures, against Italy, Belgium and South Korea.

And Williamson is hoping she will be able to show her support to the LGBTQ+ community in this summer’s showpiece tournament.

The defender said, “You hope it’s not a last-minute call once we get there, it’s something we want to do all year round. We have done it previously.

“It’s always been a value that we’ve stood by, so the consistency there won’t change, it’s something we believe in, it’s a journey the world is on that isn’t quite where we want it to be yet, so it’s something we’ll continue to fight for.

“The statement that was made at the Euros last summer with every team participating, I think that’s incredible.

“Every picture we have with a trophy lift, there’s a rainbow armband in there, so it’s a great stage and a great time to promote those values we believe in.”

Above: Leah Williamson lifting the European Championship trophy last year. Photo: Lionesses.

This comes after Jakub Jankto became the highest-profile male footballer to come out as gay, and Williamson and her teammates felt that they wanted to “stand in solidarity” with the Czech Republic player.

She said, “We’re never shy in saying what we stand for. We’re a squad that embraces equality and we have a number of people that feel very strongly about it. It’s not even a question for us really.

“We have seen another men’s player step out and be as brave as they can be and potentially change their whole life – as they don’t know what’s coming – so to also stand in solidarity with them is important to us.

“It’s something we’ve always done and will continue to do. We’re not just impacting football but trying to have a positive influence on society and that’s one of the ways we can do that.

“I think Jakub [Jankto] was a main factor, but as always, I think it stands against discrimination of any form.”

Similarly, to the men’s World Cup, in Qatar, the tournament in Australia has come under fire after a potential sponsor with Saudi Arabia tourism authorities came to light.

The news has already been questioned by USA international Alex Morgan who labelled the reports as “bizarre” and with laws against homosexuality, and women’s rights restricted in the Middle Eastern country, Williamson wanted a decision to be made by FIFA.

The Arsenal captain said, “We always make our feelings heard, but ultimately those things will hopefully be resolved in a positive way by FIFA, Australia, and New Zealand.

“There’s a time and a place for players to speak out, but ultimately the decision is not in our hands, so you hope they are made in the best interests of the game.”

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