Aspiring young footballer Jessie Adams has become a source of inspiration for girls everywhere who want to play football after she was bullied at school for playing ‘the beautiful game’.
Her story comes during Girls’ Football Week, which takes place from 23-29 April and comes after Jessie, six, was told by fellow pupils that she couldn't join in a game of football - because she was a girl.
Jessie, from Creswell, north Derbyshire, has been supported by Sheffield United Ladies and England Women after the bullying incident.
Within days and having seen a tweet from Jessie’s mum Anna expressing sadness at her daughter being denied the chance to play football, Sheffield United Ladies got in touch – offering Jessie the chance to lead the Blades out as mascot in their fixture against Radcliffe.
And, having seen the initial social media post, England Women made contact, which led to Jessie leading out the national team at Southampton’s St. Mary’s stadium for the World Cup Qualifier against Wales.
Anna, 32, said: “There’s nothing worse than your daughter coming home from school upset. Jessie was told by peers that she wasn’t allowed to play football because she was a girl.
“That’s pretty much what I said in the tweet I published – I was just so sad, but the responses to it were so positive – it all blew up in a couple of hours.
“I never expected it to go as far as it did. Sheffield United Ladies got in touch straight away and wanted to go to the school to speak to the children.
“The Lionesses also got in touch too and before we knew it, Jessie had lived her dream of leading out not just Sheffield United Ladies but England Women out too!
“Initially, we took the tweet down simply because we didn’t want people to get the wrong idea and think that we were trying to get freebies – but I regret taking it down now because it has had such a positive impact for girls in football.”
“Jessie’s school has been brilliant in helping combat the issue too – they’ve really supported us in fighting the supposed ‘stigma’ attached to girls playing football.
Carla Ward, interim manager of Sheffield United Ladies, said: “Jessie’s story is one which we should all get behind and learn from during Girls Football Week.
“While it represents and highlights the struggle that so many girls and women still face when trying to get into football, it also highlights how the rest of the football community can come together as one. That’s something which I believe is starting to happen at all levels, to encourage and support inclusion and participation among girls, but needs to keep happening and happen more often.
“Jessie is also extremely talented! She’s certainly got something about her and she’s someone we will be keeping a close eye on as she and develops.”
Anna, a full-time student nurse, added: “As her mum of course I hope she becomes a professional.
“She’s always telling me ‘I’m going play for Sheffield United when I’m older’ so I really hope she progresses as well as we all know she could and who knows, in 10, 12 years’ time we may be talking about a professional footballer.”