Jess Carter struggles to see herself as a role model who grew up without them

Since bursting onto the scene as a teenager, Jess Carter has established herself as a role model for aspiring young footballers.

Carter, 24, helped Chelsea to a domestic treble last season, and Sarina Wiegman answered calls last month to spend more regular time with England as she featured in all three games as the Lionesses won the Arnold Clark Cup.

As a black, gay woman, Carter breaks boundaries, but can’t think of herself that way.

“I think for a lot of us it’s just about being ourselves and doing what we want to do and what we love, being who we are,” Carter told the PA news agency, in an interview ahead of International Women’s Day.

“I can only speak for myself, but I never really see myself as a role model.

When Carter, who was 13 when the Women’s Super League launched, was growing up, role models were rare.

“It’s not something I’ve ever had, so it’s not something I would see myself as,” she added. “For a lot of boys growing up, they obviously have these role models and when they get there, they realize how important being a role model can be.

“I think more and more now, as young female footballers get older, they realize that women’s football is moving in that direction and now we’re becoming role models and a lot of kids look up to us…

“I don’t think it often sinks in until I get a message from a fan or see a fan and they’re super excited. With little kids, I don’t really understand why they are so excited because you’re just playing football.

“But in those moments you realize they look up to you, so those moments are special. But I would never see myself as a role model as such. I’m just here doing my best.”

Carter started playing around the age of five and was lucky enough to have Warwick Juniors, founded by Dean Brandrick, on the road. From there, she was signed by Birmingham and made her famous Champions League debut aged 16.

But even then, Carter said she needed her move to Chelsea in 2018 to see herself as a professional.

“I played at Birmingham, but it wasn’t full-time at first – although I was at Birmingham and achieved a lot there, I didn’t really take it seriously enough” , she said.

“For me, it was always about laughing. Even though it was something I loved doing, I never really thought I would be able to do it as a job and as a profession until I arrived at Chelsea. Then I realized that I had to do more.

Carter was in a relationship with teammate Ann-Katrin Berger in Birmingham. A year after his own move, the German keeper, now 31, has also signed for Chelsea.

“When we go to football, we’re not in a relationship, we’re teammates and we’re going to be the best teammates we can be,” Carter said. “It doesn’t affect us and I haven’t been told it affects the rest of the team either.

“I think it’s just a lot more acceptable in the women’s game. This is my personal opinion. Whether it’s fans, players or staff, there’s a lot more acceptance for people to be who they want to be without that criticism.”

Chelsea’s domestic dominance was halted by Manchester City on Saturday as they won the Continental Cup final 3-1, but there are still big goals ahead for Carter as they defend the league and championship titles. the FA Cup.

“For me, it’s to keep trying to make sure I’m one of the top names on Emma’s (Hayes) team roster and win those trophies,” she said.

“I would love to go to the Euros with England this summer. I’m trying to break into the team. I’ve had a few caps under Sarina and I just want that to continue.

Rebecca R. Santistevan