Welsh professional soccer player Jess Fishlock has crammed a lot of success into 14 seasons on the pitch. Last Sunday, Stonewall added to the tally by naming her the organization’s newest Sport Champion.
“I am passionate about increasing the visibility of LGBT role models in football and using my position to inspire others”, she told Wales Online, “It’s important for everyone to be OK with who they are, and that they feel safe within themselves. Since I’ve got to that point I’ve been the best version of myself and I want others to feel the same.”
It’s the latest in a long list of accolades for a person considered a sports icon in her native Wales. She’s the first Welsh soccer player, man or woman, to reach 100 match appearances for her national team. In 2018, the title of “MBE” added to her name as a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her fierce play on the field and advocacy for LGBTQ people off of it. In 2019, she was part of a UEFA Women’s Champions League winner at Lyon, and the Wales Online/Pride Cymru “Pinc List” of Wales’ most influential LGBTQ figures placed her at the top of the list.
Fishlock is currently playing for Reading in the the Barclay FA Women’s Super League, on loan from OL Reign, with whom she had played since the team started play in 2013, alongside stalwarts such as Megan Rapinoe and Quinn. This season finds her fighting to return to form after sitting most of the 2019 season with OL Reign with a knee injury. So far, she has an assist in 9 games with the WSL side and plans to return to the U.S. for the 2021 NWSL season, if there is one.
She’s also made a declaration on her other goal: to get Welsh women’s soccer in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She recently denied rumors that she was retiring from international play for Wales, and backed it up with a goal in a 3-0 victory over Belarus in a UEFA Women’s Championship qualifying match Dec. 1.
Throughout her playing career, from Wales to the USA, and via loan and off-season stops around the world, Fishlock has used her skill and story of finding the game and finding herself to set an example. “Sport is a powerful vehicle for change and my hope is that whether you’re a fan or a player,” she stated to Wales Online, “from grassroots to the top leagues in the world – we can create an open, accessible and safe environment for us all to thrive”.
Stonewall’s executive director agreed saying that in Fishlock, the organization notes her as “a trailblazer on and off the pitch”.
“She has inspired so many by being open about who she is,” Stonewall Chief Executive Nancy Kelley said of Fishlock. “She embodies everything that Rainbow Laces is about and we know having her onboard will help bring us closer to the day where all LGBT+ people, from fans to players, are accepted without exception.”