Women's football: Girl 'a champion' against sexism

media captionDarcie: Bullies "won't stop me playing football"

A teenage girl who spoke out about being abused for playing football could become a "champion" for changing stereotypes, football authorities say.

Darcie, 13, from Cwmbran in Torfaen, has been called a "lesbian" because she wants to play football professionally.

She was also told she could not play football in PE in school and has to play hockey and netball instead.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) praised her for speaking out and said it is reviewing football in schools.

image captionCaroline Spanton said Darcie spoke out "bravely" against criticism

On Wednesday, Darcie was given the opportunity to train with the Wales Women's National team in Newport and talk about her experiences in playing football.

Caroline Spanton, head of football development for the FAW Trust, said Darcie spoke out "bravely" against criticism and her example could lead to change in the way girls access football in school.

"One of the big things we're looking at is actually using young people like Darcie to be our activists - they're the young people who will change gender stereotyping issues," she said.

"We are aware that Darcie's case isn't an isolated case. We know that there's a real want and demand for girls to play more football, particularly in schools, so we're reviewing the challenges and barriers girls are facing within schools to make sure we are creating more opportunities.

"We need to make a change. Football has that opportunity and we're not just talking about football, we're talking about society issues and gender stereotypes and I think we can use the power of football to help showcase that young girls do have a voice."

image captionDarcie, who plays as a midfielder, says she has been told football is a "boys sport"

'Not for girls'

Darcie's experiences have been echoed by parents from across the UK.

Jason, from Scotland, said his nine-year-old daughter does not play football at school anymore, despite playing for her local club.

He said that she used to play during break time, but comments from boys have put her off and staff do not know the rules of the game, so cannot assess if the game is being played fairly.

"It's made her feel sad about school," he explained, and added the school needed to challenge bad behaviour.

But he said the football club his daughter plays for is "excellent" and has "outstanding support from the main [professional male] club".

Chris, who lives in London, said his 10-year-old daughter had "no issues" with playing football at school and finds other sports "boring".

Another parent, who chose not to give their name, said their daughter was banned from taking part in a tournament because she is a girl.

They explained that she was selected to play for the school team, but was told the day before she could not take part as county rules stated the tournament was for boys only.

Her parent said that there is no female football team at the school, and when a football skills demonstration was held at the school only boys were chosen to attend.

They added: "She is obstructed from joining in with football in break times by the boys as the message from the school is that it is not for girls."

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