Home ยป Marc Skinner defends Katie Zelem following online abuse

Marc Skinner defends Katie Zelem following online abuse

by Zoe Hodges
Katie Zelem

Manchester United Women manager Marc Skinner has praised Captain Katie Zelem’s “mind of steel” as she captained the side to a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa despite days of online abuse.

Manchester City’s Jill Roord ruptured her ACL after falling awkwardly following a tackle from Zelem in the Conti Cup derby mid-week.

Zelem was quick to call for medical attention for the Dutch international but following the announcement of the severity of the injury, a number of threatening tweets directed towards Zelem emerged online.

Skinner said: “Zel has got a mind of steel and you need it at Manchester United.”

He continued: “We wish Jill all the best, of course we do. But contact is part and parcel of the game, she won the ball and it’s an unfortunate fall.”

Zelem put in a solid first half performance against Villa in the centre of the pitch as her side went 2-0 up courtesy of a Nikita Parris brace.

United dominated in all areas but Villa showed fight in the second half and managed to claw one back through a Rachel Daly penalty.

The comments online didn’t seem to affect Zelem’s performance on the pitch.

Skinner said: “She embodies United. Everyone expects because of our name, because of our history that we should be this, this and this and Zelem embodies that pressure.

“She’s got a mind of steel to power through but we should never forget that she’s human. She feels, she hears, and I don’t condone any of those conversations.”

The abuse comes at a time where the spotlight is being shone on the mental health support for female footballers.

In an article published last week by the BBC, Emma Sanders and Adam Millington looked into the support offered by clubs in the WSL.

They spoke to Maheta Molango, the chief executive officer of the Professional Footballers’ Association, who said: “It’s vital that player welfare is at the heart of the women’s game.

“The way the game treats those who play it should be a leading factor in how we judge its success. It’s important that everyone keeps that front of mind at a time of significant growth and reform.”

The exponential growth of the game coupled with social media has brought some negative connotations like a rise in players being abused.

Zelem has been a consistent performer for United this season and as well as the last campaign.

In 2023, she was the only player in the WSL to win over 40 tackles, 100 duels, create over 40 chances, and provide 5 or more assists, according to data released by the Barclays WSL.

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