Despite the season’s disappointing and abrupt conclusion we still wanted to reward the amazing work that goes on within women’s football.
I wanted to begin with a confession, I had hoped to announce this award about two months ago with the rest of the Since 71 awards, although due to an error Suzy Wrack‘s award was misprinted, showing her as a Chelsea player and not a Guardian writer. I have now arranged a suitable replacement which you can see above.
When I first launched Since 71, Suzy was the first women’s football writers who caught my attention. She inspired me to push this new project as far as possible and that there is an appetite for women’s football.
While her match reports are informative and an enjoyable read, it’s her special features and investigative journalism which led her to be our first choice for this award.
Back in 2018, Suzy shared the story that FIFA were examining allegations that members of the Afghanistan national women’s team were sexually and physically abused by men from the country’s football federation, including its president, Keramuudin Karim. Also following the story through to its conclusion – Karim received a lifetime ban from football and a fine of 1 million Swiss francs and the failed appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
One of the things I most respect about Suzy is that she is not afraid to be honest and call out poor performances, even when it’s from players and coaches that she has built a rapport with as part of her role. As the coverage of women’s football increases, the pressure and level of scrutiny on it also increases. Suzy shows us that you can be fair, honest, and constructive but do it without sensational clickbait headlines.
My personal favourite from Suzy’s over last season was from her conversation with West Ham United‘s Gilly Flaherty. In the article, Flaherty talks publically for the first time about her attempt to take her own life when she was aged 17 and why it’s important to talk to your support network. Suzy wrote, “She [Flaherty] was cripplingly lonely. That was the context, the cocktail of emotions, that fuelled the attempt to take her own life aged 17.” Although Suzy allowed Flaherty the freedom to tell her own story with 99% of the article being directly from Hammer’s captain, “Back then I didn’t talk to anyone but I also didn’t think about anyone else. I didn’t think about my mum and dad, I didn’t think about my family. Whereas now there’s no way I would even consider leaving those people behind.” You can read the full article here.
When asked about the award Suzy told Since 71, “I’m really honoured to be named journalist of the year by the team at Since 71. It’s really nice to be recognised by others that cover women’s football.
I feel very lucky to be able to do the job that I do and to be able to now write full time on women’s football for the Guardian, having started out as a layout sub-editor before being asked to write a weekly women’s football blog in June 2017.
In many respects it is blogs and podcasts like Since 71 that deserve more praise for pioneering coverage of teams that don’t always get the spotlight shone on them and for dedicating so much time to covering the game we all love without as much fanfare.”
Suzy has stood up for a number of causes by sharing stories from within women’s football which are close to many of our hearts and may not have received the national exposure without her. This includes Crystal Palace keeper, Lucy Gillett, reporting that she received sexist abuse from Coventry United fans and her in-depth interview with Megan Rapinoe, as well on onfield topics the pair covered politics, equal pay and what Rapinoe described as how she felt that everyone has a personal responsibility to do what they can to make the world a better place.
Most recently Suzy explored the issues around Sergio Agüero’s awkward grabbing of Sian Massey-Ellis. Her article focused on why those who defend the Manchester City striker’s grabbing of the official are blind to the context that makes it indefensible. This led her to receive disgusting comments including “Shut the fuck up he didn’t touch anyone inappropriately. Fucking older women making big deals about this go get you a man you divorced piece of shit” and “give your head a wobble you stupid cow”; and “he didn’t try to get laid or anything, take a chill pill” and “let’s be real he grabbed her shoulder he didn’t grab her ass”; and “plug in the iron love” and “stay at home just cooking”.
Many of those responding probably didn’t read the article or aren’t capable of reading full sentences and normally focus on big headlines and like to just look at the pictures. This may discourage some from standing up for what they believe in, but not Suzy. Do not be surprised to see her continuing to be at the forefront of the important issues in women’s football and women’s sport in general.