THERE’S nothing quite like watching someone dig themselves into a hole in real time. 

Knowing that literally as soon as the words have formed a complete sentence, someone will already have uncovered some moment from the past to highlight the spectacular foolishness and hypocrisy of what is being said. 

That’s exactly what watching Kenny Shiels’ press conference earlier this week was like. 

In the aftermath of his side’s defeat to England in their qualification match for the Women’s World Cup, the Northern Ireland manager blamed females for being “more emotional than men” as a reason for women’s teams conceding a second goal shortly after a first. 

His side ultimately lost 5-0 but it is Shiels’ comments which have been under the spotlight far more than the final result. 

If I hadn’t known better, I’d have sworn it was a parody who came out with these comments. 

“I felt [England] were struggling a wee bit at times to open us up until the psychology of going 2-0 up in the women's game," Shiels said after the match. 

“I'm sure you will have noticed if you go through the patterns - when a team concedes a goal, they concede a second one in a very, very short space of time. 

“[It happens] 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.” 

On the face of it, only minimal scrutiny is required to highlight the preposterousness of such a statement. 

But it’s the next layer that makes Shiels even more of a laughing stock. 

This is the man who, as many Scottish football fans will be gloriously aware, was advised by a doctor in the early days of his time as Morton manager to stop conducting post-match interviews because they were making him “emotionally imbalanced”.  

This was not long after, as Kilmarnock manager, being given a four-match ban for bringing the game into disrepute for questioning the impartiality of the SFA’s judicial panel and the integrity of Celtic. 

So of all people to deride female footballers for being too emotional, there are few who would have elicited such an incredulous response as has Shiels. 

The obvious retort is since when is an emotional response an exclusively female trait? 

There is a list as long as the phone book of examples of male athletes, and in particular male footballers, entirely losing it due to what some might call “being too emotional”. 

Indeed, within 24 hours of Shiels’ comments, numerous male Manchester City and Atletico Madrid players were involved in a full-scale brawl towards the end of their Champions League quarter-final following the English side’s narrow win. 

These guys, they’re just too emotional. 

Of course, the examples of male athletes losing their cool are endless. 

And it is far more rare to hear these men being derided or chastised for being too emotional than it is their female counterparts. Often, in fact, the men are praised for how much they care. 

It hardly takes much investigation to realise, as in life, it is female athletes who are hit with the tag of being “too emotional” far more often. 

But perhaps the more pertinent question is why are overt displays of emotion the subject of such criticism? 

Is it not the emotion of sport that makes it so great? 

If athletes are not emotionally invested in what they are doing, why on earth are they doing it? 

And if they were not emotional about their performance, their team and the result, how could they expect fans to invest time and money into supporting them? 

There are few sights in sport quite as great as seeing athletes show how much they care about what they are doing. 

The tears after winning Olympic gold or Wimbledon or the World Cup are what it’s all about. 

And similarly, the frustration and anger athletes show when things are not going their way can be compelling to watch. 

Of course, excess emotion can be counter-productive and athletes work endlessly on ensuring they do not lose control and lose focus of what they’re trying to do. 

But don’t suggest emotion is entirely a bad thing. 

In the end, Shiels apologised for what he said in the aftermath of the match and the players have expressed their support for their manager despite his foolish comments. 

But let’s stop deriding athletes, especially female athletes, for being “too emotional”. Because if there’s no emotion, what are we even here for? 


The news that Allyson Felix will retire at the end of this coming athletics season marks something of an end of an era for the sport. 

The 36-year-old American is the most decorated female track and field Olympian of all time with 11 Olympic medals, including seven golds, as well as 13 world titles. 

Tokyo 2020, which she competed in last summer, was her fifth and final Olympic Games. 

However, it is perhaps her achievements off the track that really bolster her legacy. 

Having given birth in November 2018, less than a year later she took on sponsor Nike over maternity pay.  

With her daughter only seven months old, she disclosed that Nike wanted to pay her 70 percent less after she became a mother, highlighting an issue that so many of her fellow female athletes have also experienced. 

Just three months later, the brand changed their stance. 

Felix will be missed, but she retires safe in the knowledge that few have done more in recent decades to advance the sport.