Gabriella Howell, 22, has played football since childhood and currently plays for Sutton United FC – but while she loves the game she’s been spoiled by trolls who say she knows nothing about it
Image: Gabby Howell)
A soccer player who has been playing since she was a child has fought back cruel trolls who tell her she knows nothing about soccer.
Gabriella (Gabby) Howell, from Bromley, south east London, has been playing football since she was eight.
“I had three older brothers who all played football and I used to go to their training sessions all the time,” Gabby, 22, told The Mirror.
One day she was at her mother’s side watching her brothers at a school game when a coach from a girls’ team ran up to her.
“He pointed at me and said, ‘She has three older brothers, can she act? We don’t have enough players,” Gabby recalled.
Although the girls on the team were a few years older than Gabby, she happily jumped into the game — and she’s never looked back.
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“When I was about nine or ten years old, I was spotted playing a game in elementary school and then I started playing for Crystal Palace,” she recalls.
Gabby, who is a Spurs fan, played for Palace until she was 16 when she joined Carshalton.
After Carshalton folded, she went to Sutton United FC, where she has played in the first team ever since.
“The club is really well positioned for women’s football,” explained Gabby, adding that she trains twice a week in addition to her job.
“They really want to encourage young girls when they arrive and there is no difference between male and female players.”
She added that she likes the fact that her coaches aren’t “soft” on her because she’s a woman – which she says can be a problem in women’s football.
But while the centre-back is proud of her sporting achievements, she says they can be marred by vile trolls haunting her Instagram, TikTok and Twitter pages.
She shared some of the sexist TikTok comments she receives on her @_gabbyhowell account.
Under one video, someone commented, “Gabby how come you come out of the kitchen?”
Another said: “Always shit! It’s a woman trying to play a man’s sport.”
One even said: “That’s the problem in women’s football, I think players are chosen for looks rather than talent.”
Gabby also has to put up with men who say women “can’t compete” with men.
In addition to the sexist comments, she also receives derogatory messages from men on Instagram who don’t take her seriously.
“Men will say they’re horny under my photos of me playing football – and when I tag my club in the post it’s embarrassing,” she said.
Gabby believes one of the reasons she is being targeted is because she plays soccer but also enjoys dressing up, putting on makeup and going out on the weekends.
“You can be both — you can play soccer and you like wearing heels,” she said.
Despite enduring sexist trolling, Gabby is determined to use her platform to get young girls interested in soccer.
She also wants young women who play soccer to stay in the game and not get infected by sexism.
“I like to keep [the hateful comments] on my profiles and I don’t delete them,” she explained, adding that she wants people to see that having a lot of followers on Instagram isn’t all that matters.
“Young girls think they want to be an influencer, but they don’t see the downside. I like pointing that out to people.”
Although she admits that trolls once “broke her up,” she hasn’t let it happen since.
“Not everyone will like you. I repeat that to myself when I see these comments,” she said.
She added, “You just have to develop a thick skin.”
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https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/im-female-footballer-vicious-trolls-26655291 "I'm a footballer - vicious trolls say I'm chosen for looks over talent"