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 By PA Sport

England's Casey Stoney People questioned whether I was a girl

Casey Stoney plays for Arsenal and the England national team.

Arsenal Ladies player Casey Stoney has admitted people questioned whether she was a girl when she was growing up because of her ability on a football pitch.

The 34-year-old defender, who has 118 caps for England, suffered from bullying throughout her time at school because of her choices but reveals her male team-mates were always supportive.

"It was really hard. From the age of 10 onwards (when I started playing more), it was really difficult," she said.

"You had the door shut in your face at most teams even if you were good enough. They even questioned if I was a girl because I was a good player.

"I found it incredible - I had long hair down to my bum but because I was good at football, I couldn't possibly be a girl.

"It was tough, I faced bullying, remarks from parents and other teams but my team-mates always liked having me on their team because I was a good player, (it wasn't them) I got bullied by."

Stoney is judging the McDonald's Football Mum of the Year awards as she is passionate about the support her mum provided as she developed as a footballer.

The Arsenal defender started playing when she was in junior school but she admits her mum thought it was just a phase when she first mentioned playing.

Stoney said: "My mum played a key role in my career growing up.

"Not so much as I went into professional football but when I was a young girl and told I couldn't play football, pretty much every door was shut in my face back then but my mum took me to teams, kept me going, kept me positive.

"My mum worked three jobs a day to make sure she had enough money to pay my football subs.

"She took me there and every time I doubted myself she was always the one who has been the positive influence in my life to keep me going."

She added: "I think she thought it was just a phase to start with but then she realised 'actually, she has a talent' and she has encouraged me the whole time.

"My mum is very much 'sport is sport' and your gender shouldn't decide what sport you play. She gave me every opportunity to play anything and always encouraged me to play."

In 2014, Stoney's partner Megan Harris gave birth to twins Teddy and Tilly and the 34-year-old is happy that the opportunities in football for her daughter are better than they were for her.

She said: "The game has changed since I was young. I have got a little girl now and hopefully she can grow up with the opportunities I didn't have.

"It is a completely different world now, (the conditions) are miles away from what they were when I was growing up.

"There were no girls' teams when I was growing up, I had to play in a boys' team and you had to be really good then to play in a boys' team or you just were not accepted.

"The world of football now is so different for the girls.

"You can go and play in teams, there are so many more opportunities now.

"If she wants to go play football then brilliant because I love football, I think it is a fantastic game."

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