Northern Ireland boss Kenny Shiels has apologised for saying “women are more emotional than men” when discussing his side’s 5-0 defeat by England.
Shiels’ remarks drew criticism from former England players Siobhan Chamberlain and Ian Wright.
He said on Wednesday that he was “sorry for the offence” caused.
“I am an advocate for the women’s game and passionate about developing opportunities for women and girls to flourish,” he said.
Shiels’ side conceded four second-half goals in a 5-0 defeat by England that left them unable to qualify for next year’s Women’s World Cup.
He told a post-match news conference: “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.
“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.”
The match was attended by a crowd of 15,348 at Windsor Park in Belfast – a record for a women’s match in the country.
“I wish to apologise for my comments made in the post-match press conference last night,” Shiels said.
‘Last night was a special occasion for the women’s game in Northern Ireland and I am proud to manage a group of players who are role models for so many girls, and boys, across the country.”
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Former goalkeeper Chamberlain, who played 50 times for England, said Shiels had to take responsibility for “knowing the value that words can hold”.
“I think we all know that the five minutes after you concede a goal – not just in women’s football, [also] in men’s football – you’re more likely to concede a goal,” Chamberlain, speaking before Shiels’ apology, told BBC Radio 5 Live.
“To just generalise that to women is a slightly bizarre comment.
“When you give post-match news conferences when you’re feeling emotional after a big game, it’s important to make sure that you are speaking sensibly and are aware of the message that your words can carry.”
Wright tweeted that Shiels was “talking foolishness”.
Yvonne Harrison, chief executive of Women in Football, said Shiels’ remarks were “very unhelpful”.
“Hearing a man talking about women being too emotional in this day and age, I just felt like I’d gone back 30 years, to be perfectly honest with you,” Harrison told PA news agency.
“It’s something women have had to face for years and years right across society, not just sport.
“But I caveat that with his team had just been beaten 5-0 by a very strong Lionesses team and that’s not easy to take, and you’ve got all the media on you.”
Shiels, 65, was appointed manager of the senior women’s team in May 2019, having previously led Kilmarnock and Derry City’s men’s teams.
He oversaw Northern Ireland’s successful Euro 2022 play-off campaign, which saw them secure the country’s first ever qualification for a major women’s tournament.
Shiels described his side’s qualification as the “UK’s greatest sporting achievement”.
England went 1-0 up in the 26th minute but had to wait until the 52nd minute to add a second.
“When we went 1-0 down we tried to slow it down to give them time to get that emotional imbalance out of their heads. That’s an issue we have,” Shiels continued in his Tuesday news conference.
“Not just in Northern Ireland but all of the countries in the world.”
Shiels’ comments threaten to mar successful managerial stint – analysis
Emma Sanders, BBC Sport
Tuesday night was one of contrast and controversy as Northern Ireland played in a historic World Cup qualifier against rivals England.
It was a celebration of their recent success on the pitch – including their qualification for a first major tournament at the Euros this summer.
But the 5-0 defeat ended their slim hopes of securing a place at the 2023 World Cup and Shiels’ rash comments shortly afterwards are now dominating headlines which should have been reflecting on their progression on the pitch.
There was shock in the news conference room when he made the claim that “women are more emotional than men” and the extent of the offence caused by his comments was clear this morning.
His statement stressed his hopes to be an “advocate for the women’s game” but his comments will have harmed his reputation as such.
Now, in a period when NI should be preparing for the biggest tournament in their history, his future as manager is under speculation and that will be an unwelcome distraction for the players.
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