game changers | 

Stephanie Roche on why she was ‘bricking it’ alongside Liam Brady

Stephanie Roche spoke exclusively to the Sunday World at Virgin Media’s ‘Gamers are Athletes’ campaign.

Stephanie Roche© SPORTSFILE

Kevin PalmerSunday World

Stephanie Roche admits she was 'bricking it' as she sat alongside Irish soccer legend Liam Brady on the RTE soccer panel - but she hopes women are finally being accepted in football.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday World at Virgin Media’s ‘Gamers are Athletes’ campaign, Ireland women's international Roche admitted there is still progress to be made to ensure women are accepted when giving their views on the men's game.

"Even now when you watch women commentating on a men's game, there are some nerves in the first few minutes," Stephanie told us.

"You are sat alongside the greats of the game who have been doing this on TV for years and at the back of your mind, you are thinking people will be looking at you and asking - who is she?

"I did a game with Liam Brady recently and I was absolutely bricking it.

"Liam is a legend of Irish football and he has been working on RTE for a long time.

"I didn't really know him at all, but it went really well and he was a really nice guy and we had good chemistry on screen talking about that game.

"But you are always going to have that self-doubt given some people's perception about women in sport.

"Hopefully people are more used to it now, but it is at the back of your mind."

Liam Brady

ITV Sport in the UK made history with the first all-female host and analyst panel for a World Cup game last week.

A social media backlash from critics confirmed there is still resentment to the evolution to include women in the coverage of the men's game, but Roche hopes perceptions are changing.

"When I started doing the commentary and analysis on TV, people's biggest issue was that I was a woman and I didn't play in the men's game," she continued.

"There was nothing I could do about that, but I have played football at a high level all my life and I'd like to think I have a bit of knowledge of the game.

"People looked at it and saw it as being a bit different with a female voice on the air.

"Even myself, when I hear a female commentator, I take a step back and think that sounds different.

"But you have to listen to what is being said and then you realise women have something to offer in terms of analysis and commentary.

"I've had lots of comments from people questioning what I am talking about and that's fine because you are never going to have the same opinions as everyone else.

"Some of the lads on TV get awful abuse for their comments and I'm not saying that just because I'm a woman in the role, no one can criticise me.

"We are there to talk about the game and my opinion may be different to yours, but don't say you won't listen to me just because I'm a woman."

Roche also gave her views on the controversy surrounding the World Cup in Qatar, with protests over the country's ban on homosexuality dominating the agenda around the tournament so far.

"The biggest issue is that FIFA gave them the World Cup in the first place. It's pretty crazy that it's there," she added.

"For me, there are two ways of looking at this. People who travel to a country have to respect their laws and how they run things to a certain extent.

"But if Qatar wants to welcome the world to their country for a football tournament, they are going to have to be a little more open minded about how they do things.

As World Cup fever kicks in, Virgin Media are bringing Ireland’s top e-sports football players and Team WYLDE Athletes Tyrone Ryan and Ciaran Walsh to Turner’s Cross to play against Irish football legends David Meyler and Stephanie Roche in a live FIFA battle that will also be streamed on Twitch @ 5pm on 29th of November.

"The 'OneLove' armband thing was crazy. I don't know what wearing that can do to offend anyone, but the matches are on now and we have to let the players get on with their job.

"Growing up, the World Cup was the best thing for me and this one has certainly be overshadowed by everything that has gone on in Qatar.

"I would never suggest we shouldn't be talking about that, but at the same time let's get on with enjoying the football."

Stephanie Roche is backing Virgin Media’s ‘Gamers are Athletes’ campaign, recognising the huge talent that gamers in Ireland represent and how they compete internationally every day.

Today's Headlines

More Soccer

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

WatchMore Videos