No other football clubs in England have more than one active player with an MBE, so why do Arsenal Ladies have four?
Fara Williams became the latest female footballer to be recognised for her services to the sport in the 2016 New Years Honours list.
The midfielder is England’s most-capped player and was the Lionesses’ joint-top scorer at the 2015 World Cup but, in addition to her contribution on the pitch, it is her work off it that was rewarded by the Queen.
After spending six years of her career homeless, Williams became an FA skills coach and is now an active patron of the Homeless FA.
“I show my face, give speeches to some of the groups of men and women there about my story, where I come from and how I became homeless,” she explained.
“I just try to show them a way out of the bad situations that they’re in and let them know that I’m there when they need me.”
Williams’ rise from rags to riches is an incredible story but there are many inspirational people at Arsenal Ladies.
Kelly Smith, England’s record scorer with 46 goals in 117 international appearances, received her MBE in 2008 for services to football. However, like Williams, Smith’s story stretches further than the pitch.
After breaking her leg in 2004 the forward suffered from depression and developed a drinking problem, but after successfully battling alcoholism she hopes her MBE can inspire more people to beat their demons.
“They were really dark, tough times that I went through, but I’ve grown on those experiences and I know people who have gone through the same things,” Smith said.
“If I can be that person that helps them by seeing that I’ve gone through it, and then help them out the other end, then that’s great for them and for me to know that I’ve helped.”
Casey Stoney is also hoping to become a role model. The 33-year-old is the country’s most high-profile openly gay athlete and she believes her MBE can help people embrace their sexuality.
“Coming out enhanced my life and hopefully the MBE is a sign that women’s football is improving and that society in terms of judging sexuality is moving on as well,” Stoney said.
“If I inspire others to play football, if I inspire others to be comfortable in their own skin, then I feel like I’ve had a positive impact on someone’s life.”
Is it a coincidence that these three players call Arsenal home? Rachel Yankey does not think so. The winger became the first female footballer to receive an MBE in 2006 before being awarded an OBE eight years later, and she believes the club’s DNA plays a large part in the honour.
“As a 16-year-old, coming into this environment it was certainly something that was drilled into me by the manager, Vic Akers,” Yankey explained.
“First of all you have to be a good person, so I think the players here are good people and we always aim to help others. That’s why this great club has seen so many MBEs.”
If that is the case then, with the profile of women’s football on the rise, it will only be a matter of time before Arsenal Ladies add another honour to their growing list.
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