Lockdown kept us apart but it also brought many players closer than ever to fans through acts of charity and tireless work with club trusts and foundations. England star Lucy Bronze led by example.
You’ve used social media a lot during lockdown – has that been to amplify your voice?
Definitely. I used to cut myself off from it a little bit – more to help myself. But I realised it’s a way to connect with people and engage with them. I use it less for myself, more to share my experience and help charities. It gains a bigger reach with your fanbase and really helps to spread the word.
You’ve been involved in many good causes, including a keepy-up challenge…
Loads of people ask for help. I wish I could help everyone but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. The keepy ups were with a little girl, Imogen. That was a surprise call I did with her and then I stupidly told her I would do 500 keepy-ups! So I had to do them all in a row for a video because I’d promised her.
Is technology making it easier to do more community work?
Yeah – there are loads of things like the keepy-up video. I did a phone call with a lady called Michelle who works in Tescos. When you see those videos on social media it gives you a really good feeling. They ended up cutting the video short for social media but I was on the phone for 15 or 20 minutes. I was telling her how amazing she was and she was telling me I was amazing! I had to say, “Michelle, this phone call is for you – it’s not for me.” I loved doing it. It’s great being able to talk to fans.
And you have ongoing charity commitments too…
The things that are really close to me are kids, although I love animals as well. I love supporting kids and helping them in any way I can. The NSPCC is a charity that I really love. It’s a huge charity in England and my aunty Julie Tough did a lot of work with them in the North East, so I got involved too. I do little things to help them. I did a collaboration to promote the charity and encourage people to give more.
And you also work with some lesser-known charities…
I’ve been involved with Team Kenya. It’s quite a small charity and it’s another one I got involved with through my aunty. Team Kenya helps educate young girls predominantly and supports children through some horrible experiences that really hit home when you hear the stories. I’ve actively supported them for the last three or four years and tried to make sure I helped them during coronavirus. Charities generally have needed a lot of help at this time.
Does it still give you a buzz to shine a light on good causes with your fame?
I absolutely love it. I still don’t see myself in that light. I get reminded constantly by my agent Marie, who works at the PFA, and my mum and my aunty. They are always finding things I can help out and support with. I’m still in a bit of disbelief that I have this platform and I want to use it. My mum and family say I should speak up and use my voice because people can listen. There are a lot of things I can say that might help, but you have to say the right things and I am really conscious of that as well.
Will your community experiences during Covid-19 have a long-term influence on what you do?
I’d like to think I can continue doing these things – especially with all the protests that are going on now for Black Lives Matter. I’d like to think it’s not a flash in the pan. Coronavirus has maybe given people a different perspective on life. People are really thinking about what’s important, and you see that with the way people are supporting the NHS. It has been easy to take things for granted until you really rely on them..”
After another hugely successful year personally – including being hailed the best female player in the world by the BBC – Lucy won her third consecutive French league title with Lyon. Due to Covid, it was awarded off the pitch with games to spare
“There is a disappointment in the way things have happened,” Lucy said. “I sit down at the start of the season and plan the direction I want to go in and my goals, what games I’m looking forward to.
“Football is my life and that has been disrupted. But, when you put it into context of what’s really going on at the moment you just have to be thankful that you’re healthy and safe. Football has to take a side step at the moment. I’m frustrated but I’m experienced enough and old enough to know that it’s the right thing to do.”