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UK Soldiers Hurled ‘Abuse’ At Female Footballers

Members of the British Army allegedly shout sexist abuse during an England women’s match in Cyprus.

The Defence Ministry is investigating claims British troops shouted sexist abuse at female football players during an England match.

Members of the British Army based in Cyprus watched the England women’s team beat Australia 3-0 in the Cyprus Cup tournament in Nicosia on Friday.

Two England supporters at the match, Rachel O’Sullivan and Sophie Downey, said of the roughly 50 troops at the game, a group of 10 hurled abuse at the players – mainly targeting the Australians – throughout the match.

Ms Downey said: “We’ve been to lots of games before and we can engage in banter, but this wasn’t banter – it was constant, gender-specific abuse.

“There were around 50 troops watching the game and a group of around 10 of them were directing constant insults – they were on the side of the Australian dugout so it was more focused on their players.

“We weren’t sure whether to tweet about it because it’s the Army and we didn’t want to offend people – I’m a very proud English person and I’m very proud of what the Army do – but I was ashamed of them today.”

Ms O’Sullivan and Ms Downey, who both cover football for the Girls on the Ball website, claimed the soldiers abused the Australian substitutes as they took off their tracksuits before going on the pitch.

:England's Alex Scott and Australia's Stephanie Catley

The Australian players were mainly targeted, it is claimed

They also said they targeted one Australian defender in particular.

Ms O’Sullivan said: “One Australian player, number six (Uzunlar), they were harassing her over and over and over again, throughout the game.

“They were making horrible comments, shouting at her, whistling – it was uncomfortable to hear.

“These are teenage girls and they were sexually objectifying them.”

Ms Downey and Ms O’Sullivan said they complained to the commander in charge of the contingent after the match.

They said he apologised, saying he had not heard the abuse.

An Australian supporter at the game, who wished to remain anonymous, also complained about the alleged abuse.

“This was a stunning one-off that I’ve never heard before in women’s football,” the football fan said.

“They were calling the girls t****, telling the referee ‘I’d like to blow you’. I said something to the Army sergeant, ‘This isn’t a complaint as an Australian supporter, it’s a complaint as a woman’. It was beyond the pale.

“He was apologetic after the game and offered to apologise to the players.”

An MoD spokeswoman said: “Behaviour of the kind described is totally unacceptable and is not tolerated in the Armed Forces where abuse, bullying and discrimination have no place.

“We are investigating these claims and if it is found that any UK personnel have fallen below the high standards we expect then appropriate action will be taken.”

An FA spokesperson told Press Association Sport: “We’ve spoken to the (England) players, manager and assistant manager after the game and none of them have said they heard anything during the game worthy of reporting or complaining about.

“They appreciated the British Army’s support and were happy to have photographs taken with the Army boys at the end of the game.”

But the spokesperson added: “The FA will investigate all allegations of discriminatory abuse. If anyone did experience any form of discriminatory behaviour we would urge people to report it by calling 0800 085 0508, emailing reportdiscrimination@thefa.com or downloading the Kick It Out app from the App store of Google Play.”

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