‘I’m still in shock after my Wembley surprise’

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May 28, 2021
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    Karen Carney column banner

    This week I was given a surprise at Wembley when I was told I am a new inductee into the National Football Museum's Hall of Fame.external-link I'm still in shock.

    I walked into a 90,000-seater stadium and nobody was there, so I was wondering what was going to happen!

    It was overwhelming. My former England and Arsenal team-mate Rachel Yankey, who presented me with the trophy, is similar to me and we get awkward in those situations.

    All the people that mean a lot to me were there.

    My sister was telling me to take my mask off for the photos. My parents and agent were with me and my driver Gary, who is like family to me.

    The pandemic has made everyone realise who the people that matter to them are.

    Karen Carney

    I feel like I'm in a bigger team now more than ever. I came out of football and probably forgot how valuable team work is and then I came to Wembley for this and realised how important my team around me are.

    My family and friends are my team around me and they keep me humble. I was clear I wanted these people next to me in all the photos.

    My sister is so important as she was the one who got me into football. She didn't have any opportunities herself to play but was a referee and a grassroots football coach.

    It's important to me she was at Wembley and enjoyed this moment. Yes, I've achieved things and worked hard, but I wouldn't have been here had she not pushed me.

    My parents have travelled everywhere with me and my uncle has been my biggest advocate. 'Yanks' giving me the trophy was special too. She's one of the most inspirational people I know.

    My mum pushed me out of the way for a photo and said "I want one with my daughter" – and she meant Yanks!

    There is an iceberg to success. You don't see everything underneath. I can't be successful if the people behind me don't help me. You need those people around you, like I have.

    'It's about people and not the occasions'

    Karen Carney, Laura Bassett and Claire RaffertyCarney received a commemorative shirt before England's friendly with Germany at Wembley in November 2019, alongside friends Laura Bassett and Claire Rafferty

    It's about people and not the occasions – that's where I get emotional.

    When you play football you get to do a lot of cool stuff. How many of my family members would have had an opportunity to be on the pitch at Wembley? It's little things like that which make it special as I want everyone else to enjoy the moments too.

    I've done a lot of amazing things in my career but I've always done it with their support. I want them to be a part of everything.

    I got goosebumps and was a little bit emotional when they told me I was in the Hall of Fame. I'll probably get emotional again when it properly sinks in.

    I don't think I've fully reflected on my career yet either.

    There are so many moments. Playing at Wembley in the first women's team with Team GB showed we could sell out grounds with the right support and marketing.

    My first England cap was special. I was 17 and came on as a substitute against Italy. I scored on my debut and I remember it really vividly.

    I was wearing a red kit and I came on as a right winger. I took a few people on and should have scored with the first chance before I put in the rebound. I remember being fearless and just enjoying everything about that moment.

    Playing in a home European Championship in 2005 was massive. That was probably the best experience I had. My mum was ill at the time and Yanks was massive for me. She was so supportive.

    I've also had World Cups and just loads of amazing memories… I've been really lucky.

    'I'm blessed enough to have a platform'

    Karen CarneyCarney made 144 appearances for England after making her debut aged 17

    I'm really humbled that part of the decision to add me to the Hall of Fame was for things I've done off the pitch as well as on it.

    Speaking out about mental health was a massive thing. I would be lying if I said it doesn't affect me because it does on a daily basis.

    I have a 13-year-old niece who I don't want to lie to. We have to be more open about speaking about mental health and admitting when we're not OK. We have to make it normal.

    We have to protect each other and be nice to others. The pandemic has taught us that. That's one of the biggest things I got out of it – that we need to support each other.

    We also have to make females being involved in sport the norm so it's not about gender – it's just simply about them as a player or a pundit.

    Things like social media abuse is something that's just not acceptable. We have a responsibility because we encourage freedom of speech but there are certain things you wouldn't be allowed to say or do on the streets. That cannot happen on social media platforms.

    I'm more proud of speaking about that kind of stuff than I am of my football because it's difficult to talk about mental health and the impact it's had on me, but it's important.

    I just want to help people. If I'm blessed enough to have a platform to talk about it, I will.

    Karen Carney was speaking to BBC Sport's Emma Sanders. You can read her column on the BBC Sport website and app every month.

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