Women's Sport: Kelly Smith MBE talks openly about life as a professional football and her previous challenges with alcohol in the new Game Changer Podcast

This week has seen the launch of series three of The Game Changers the podcast that features trailblazing women in sport. After the success fo the first two series, The Game Changers podcast has teamed up with Barclay’s for this series.

The podcast features fearless women in football and in the first episode launched this week, Barclay’s WSL ambassador and former Arsenal and England legend Kelly Smith MBE talk about representing England and Arsenal. She talks about how things has changed from when she started out and why she now wants to speak openly about her previous challenges with alcohol.

In an interview ahead of the launch of the new episode, Kelly shared her thoughts.

On being told she couldn’t play anymore on the boys’ teams
I was devastated because I am only 8 or 9 at the time and I just wanted to do something that I was passionate about and good at and being told that I couldn’t do it was soul-destroying. 

On high levels of addiction in professional football:
You play at such a high level for so long, and you get the buzz and the feeling, and then when that’s taken away, or you can’t do that anymore you’re kind of looking for something else, and when you get that through gambling or that buzz, if you have that addictive personality as I do, you get yourself in problems.

On why she talks openly about her issues with alcohol:
I could have just pretended that everything was okay, and I started to do that at the early part of my career when I’d do interviews, they’d say ‘how did you deal with your injury?’ and I’d just brush it under the carpet, not really feeling comfortable talking about my addiction and how I really did deal with my injuries.

And then when I got a little bit older, I thought I need to be honest. It’s hurting me to lie, and I want to help other people. There were times that I wanted to quit when I was really low. But I didn’t, and that’s what I am most proud of because there were some really dark times.” 

I’m very passionate about it because I’ve had my struggles in the past, so I really want to be talking about it – letting people know it’s okay to talk – it helps. Whereas when I was going through my problems I just shut down and didn’t. It was weak to talk then, it was weak to have a problem, but it’s actually the reverse of that. Everyone has problems, everyone’s human.

On opportunities for women in football today:
There is a career in football now for women, not just if they want to play football, but you could be a referee, you could be a coach, you could be a journalist, anything within the game now – you could be a pundit, but a few years ago the opportunities weren’t really there.

On playing in the USA today:
Now, when youngsters come to me and say: ‘Should I go to America on a soccer scholarship?’ I say you don’t need to now. If you want to be a professional in this country, this is probably the best league in the world now. So, you don’t need to go to America as I did. You can stay here and if your dreams and ambitions are to play for England, play in the FA WSL because it’s a fantastic league, very competitive and everything’s there for you now.

Kelly is the first to share her story, but series three has a great lineup of sporting pioneers and legends to come as they talk frankly about their historic careers, what drives them and how they’ve dealt with some of the toughest challenges they’ve faced. To listen to Kelly’s story, please visit www.promotepr.com/gamechangers  

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