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Toni Duggan on the positives to be taken from criticism

At the England media day, Toni Duggan spoke to us about the growth of the game in Spain [where she plays domestically for Barcelona] and the what England can learn from the Spanish football culture.

WF: “Do you feel women’s game accelerating in England faster than in Spain?”
TD: “It’s a difficult one because when I’m in Spain they’re asking what’s happening in the women’s game in England. Everyone wants to know what the difference is, they’re all intrigued about it. It’s different for different reasons. In Spain there’s a lot more publicity, when we’re successful we’re front page of the newspaper – every newspaper and the big ones, Marca and others – but then also when we lose we’re slated. That’s the level the game is at. It’s the same as the men’s – that’s how we’re treated there.”

WF: “In some ways that would be a sign of progress if there was greater critique (in England)?”
TD: “It would, yes. I played at the Wanda [in March] with 60,000 people for Barcelona against Atletico Madrid and we broke the record for attendance at a women’s game and there’s a picture of me celebrating and behind me there’s actually a man putting one finger up.
“I’m not promoting that or saying it’s a good thing but it kind of showed what it meant. You could feel the passion in the stadium that day. It was a real atmosphere, it was a massive game and it was only a league game. In England, I think we get about 30,000 for maybe a Cup final and there are lots of kids on the seats, which is nice don’t get me wrong, but it’s a calm atmosphere.
“But I felt like that was a proper game and the fans really wanted to be there for their team – the Atletico supporters were giving us stick, they were booing us, there were flares. I’m not encouraging all of it – there are some things in the men’s game we don’t want – but I’m just saying it felt like a proper atmosphere. Sometimes we can give away free tickets and get 20,000 but 10,000 are free. But at the Wanda those people had bought those tickets, they were diehard Atletico Madrid fans and were there to see their team win and that’s different between England and Spain for me.

WF: “You want to be held to same benchmark as men – same scrutiny, criticism, praise, everything?”
TD: “Yes, I think it’s happening. In the past, we might have lost a game and you get fans messaging you saying, ‘Ah, don’t worry, you’ve done so well’ and it can be a bit patronising, do you know what I mean? We’ve actually played badly and people are saying, ‘Ah, we’re so proud’. Is it just because we’re the women’s team, is it just because we’re girls? If that was the men you wouldn’t be saying that.

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