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Matildas captain Sam Kerr and her teammates defend national team after Lisa De Vanna allegations

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Matildas captain Sam Kerr has declared the national team a “safe haven” as the players defend the group’s culture in the wake of damning allegations from former star Lisa De Vanna.

Kerr was one of 15 current Matildas who expressed their empathy for De Vanna who went public with historic allegations of bullying and a “toxic culture”.

But they declared the Matildas were a “second family” and “like home” as Football Australia, the PFA and Sport Integrity Australia launched investigations into the allegations.

Skipper Sam Kerr had her say. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Skipper Sam Kerr had her say. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“I have been a part of this team for 12 amazing years, from 15 years old to now. Throughout my career the Matildas have been a safe haven for me and allowed me to grow into the player and person I am today,” Kerr said.

“I count myself lucky to be a part of this amazing group of athletes and people.”

As a collective, the players said they acknowledged the “seriousness of Lisa’s allegations about the past” but said the Matildas, who made a stunning run to the bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics, had a “strong professional, inclusive and supportive culture”.

“We empathise with her for not feeling like she could come forth earlier,” the player statement said.

“We will work with Football Australia, the PFA and Sport Integrity Australia to ensure that all current and future players feel comfortable, safe and able to report instances of inappropriate behaviour in a timely manner. There must also be a trusted process to deal with these complaints.

“We all – from our most capped players to our most recently capped – would like to reassure to our fans, family and friends that today we have a strong professional, inclusive and supportive culture that does not condone any of the behaviour mentioned within the numerous media articles about historical incidents. Our strong leadership ensures our cultural norms are appropriate for today’s professional sporting environment.

Lisa De Vanna said the Matildas had a ‘toxic culture’. Picture: Matthias Hangst – FIFA/FIFA via Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

“As a group, we represent the values reflective of Australia and that includes acceptance and inclusivity, regardless of sexuality, ethnicity or culture. It was disappointing to observe conversations inferring the group is not accepting of differences, especially given the diversity that exists within our current leadership group on all those fronts, let alone across the broader team.

“We would also like to reiterate the professional standards that surround the current team today. Women’s football has dramatically grown in recent years and so has our professionalism and standards.

“As a team, we have spoken at length about the allegations and are all hurt by what has occurred. We hold this team close to our hearts and, for many, this team has been a safe haven. It has given us strength and purpose throughout our careers.

“We are together like a family in this, from our oldest to our youngest player, and the difficulties we’ve faced in the last week have only made us stronger as a group.

“We stand supportive of athletes who are able to come forward and report instances of inappropriate behaviour in their respective environments, and therefore welcome an independent review into this matter.”

Personal statements form the players:

“I am in full support of this collective statement together with my teammates. The Matildas have been my second family and safe place for over a decade, and we, as a full inclusive team, will always stand for and with each other.” – Mackenzie Arnold

“I support the collective team statement. The current Matildas environment is one that allows individual players to strive for their personal best within the team setting.” – Ellie Carpenter

“The Matildas have always been a second family to me. I have spent more time with these players and these staff members than I have with my own family at times, and I have always felt at home and safe. I am proud to be part of this family and will always support and care for the people within it.” – Steph Catley, Matildas vice-captain

Matildas Steph Catley, Emily van Egmond, Hayley Raso and Sam Kerr share a special bond. Picture: Sam Kerr/InstagramSource: Supplied

“From the moment I stepped into the Matildas environment as a 16-year-old, this has been my safe place and the professional environment has helped me to grow into the player and person I am today. I stand with my teammates/second family in full support of this collective statement.” – Caitlin Foord

“I play my best football when I’m in an environment that’s professional, fun and supportive. This team gives me all of that.” – Mary Fowler

“Being a part of the Matildas family is something I take immense pride in. I fully support our collective statement and stand by the strong, inclusive, safe and professional environment that I have experienced for the best part of a decade.” – Alanna Kennedy

“The Matildas are a large part of my identity. I have dedicated a lot of my time to help grow the culture and professionalism of this team and it’s been a fantastic journey that we are all proud of.” – Elise Kellond-Knight

“I have been a part of this team for 12 amazing years, from 15 years old to now. Throughout my career the Matildas have been a safe haven for me and allowed me to grow into the player and person I am today. I count myself lucky to be a part of this amazing group of athletes and people.” – Sam Kerr, Matildas captain

“Since joining this team at the beginning of 2019, I have felt welcomed, valued and only experienced the utmost professional environment both on and off the field.” – Teagan Micah

“Being part of the Matildas has been the greatest honour and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this team.” – Clare Polkinghorne

“Throughout my involvement with the Matildas, I have found great comfort in the professional and safe working environment within this group. The Matildas are like my family, they have played a big part in shaping who I am, and I am so proud to be a part of this special team” – Hayley Raso

Lisa De Vanna and the Matildas prior to the France 2019 Women’s World Cup. Picture: Jean-Pierre Clatot / AFPSource: AFP

“For me, coming in at a young age during a major tournament, I have experienced nothing but acceptance and welcome and can honestly say the environment is one of the best I have been a part of.” – Kary Roestbakken

“I am in full support the collective team statement. For 11 years I have been incredibly lucky to be part of such an amazing team, be surrounded by incredible athletes and even better people. The Matildas have always been more than just a team, they have been my safe space and my second family. In those 11 years, this group has helped me grow and find myself as a footballer and as a person. I am grateful to them for being a part of my journey and shaping who I am today.” – Emily van Egmond

“As a current and longstanding Matilda, I am in full support of the collective statement from the team and the professionalism which we have built over the years. I am proud of every moment that I get to stand with and for my teammates in the green and gold.” – Lydia Williams

“As an individual and as a current Matilda I am in full support of the collective statement made by the teammates I stand side-by-side with wearing the green and gold jersey.” – Tameka Yallop

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Man Utd offer ultimatum to Jesse Lingard as £15m transfer option emerges

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Manchester United ace Jesse Lingard could be facing a £15m exit just months after choosing to stay at Old Trafford

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FIFA World Cup Qualifying 2022, news, results, Neymar retirement, Brazil, latest

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Brazil star Neymar said Sunday that the 2022 World Cup will be his last as he “doesn’t have the strength to put up with more football”.

“I think it will be my last World Cup,” the 29-year-old told DAZN. “I will play it like it is the last because I don’t know if I will still have the mental strength to put up with even more football.”

Neymar, who has played in two World Cups and is his country’s second top scorer of all time behind Pele, will be 34 when the 2026 tournament rolls around.

“I will do everything to get to the 2022 World Cup in great shape and will do everything to win for my country, to fulfil my biggest dream since I was little,” added the Paris Saint-Germain star.

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It follows an increasingly tense relationship with Brazil fans in recent months. After a clash with Chile, he was widely blasted as being out of shape. He then hit back twice, first with a post on his Instagram story where he said that he was wearing a ‘size G’ [large] shirt as oppose to his usual ‘M’ [medium]. He was also labelled unfit and overweight in the off-season after photos were published of him relaxing on a yacht.

He also said last month: “I don’t know what more I need to do in this shirt for the fans to respect Neymar.

“This isn’t normal. This has been happening for a long time, from you reporters, commentators, and others as well.

“Sometimes I don’t even want to give interviews but I do my bit at important moments.”

Neymar played in the 2014 World Cup on home soil and scored four goals. However, he was to suffer a back injury and missed out as Brazil were humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the semi-finals.

Four years later, in Russia, Brazil were knocked out by Belgium in the quarter-finals.

So far, his international honours have been limited to the 2013 Confederations Cup and an Olympic gold medal in Rio in 2016.

Injury ruled him out of the 2019 Copa America which Brazil won as well as the 2021 edition where Argentina triumphed in the final.

Brazil are comfortably placed to reach the 2022 World Cup in Qatar having won all nine of their qualifiers in the South American region so far.

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