The mum of a seven-year-old girl who has been picked on while playing boys’ football says the lack of respect she has received has been “baffling”.
Sarah Yarnold’s tweet about Darcy went viral after she said parents made “cruel comments” and opponents have refused to shake her hand.
After the story was shared on social media, England Women asked the youngster to be a mascot when they face Sweden in November.
Appearing on BBC Radio 5 live on Friday, Darcy met former Manchester United captain Michael Carrick, who said her treatment was “sad”.
“For Darcy to play football and enjoy it is fantastic,” said Carrick, who is now United’s assistant manager. “You shouldn’t have to go through things like this.”
There was also a message from England women’s goalkeeper Carly Telford and Darcy will be the mascot on Sunday for Manchester United women’s game against Charlton.
“She plays with a wonderful group of boys, but every now and then, people do not shake her hand at the end of the match or there are little comments made,” added Sarah, speaking on 5 live. “Occasionally parents might say something. I get in the car and feel down by it all, but she is so resilient. I am so proud of her.
“Sometimes grown-ups need to remember it is not the Premier League, this is grassroots, and they are there to have fun.”
Anna Kessel, co-founder of Women in Football, shared Darcy’s story initially.
“I find it sad that some adults cannot treat her with the same respect that these seven-year-olds do,” Sarah said in a message replying to Kessel on Twitter.
Striking a chord
The story has prompted people to share similar stories. Olympic hockey gold medallist Sam Quek revealed that she too was excluded from playing football as a child.
“I played football with the boys for years, but the parents started a campaign and I was banned. My mum had to go to the FA to get it overturned,” she tweeted.
“It made me want to stick it to the crowd and raise my game. It also made me less nervous performing in later life in front of hostile crowds weirdly! Tell her she is a champ from me,” Quek added.
Sports broadcaster Jacqui Oatley spoke about the issue.
“Embarrassing behaviour. Lads today are more used to girls being into football and they play/watch as equals. Some of their parents clearly will not change entrenched views,” she said.
Football reporter Michelle Owen was also among those who lent their support to the seven-year-old.
“As a young girl playing in a boys’ team I got this too,” Owen tweeted. “The manager would not play me – I used to travel miles to get one minute at the end! The boys did not think I should be there. It is great Darcy’s team-mates support her – she will be stronger for all of this.”