‘The More We Get Seen, The More We Break Stereotypes’: Mary Fowler On The Assumptions About Women In Soccer
Mary Fowler made her international debut as a professional soccer player at 15, representing Australia at the Tour of Nations opener in Brazil.
Four years since her debut, the footballer from Far North Queensland has represented Australia at the Olympics, was the youngest player at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, was named the PFA Young Women’s Footballer of the Year, is one of the Australian faces of adidas and is the striker for Manchester City in the English Women’s Super League.
It's an impressive track record. The international success, global fame and pressure Mary's under are enough to make anyone stressed, let alone a 19-year-old. She explains that a firm support network has made all the difference. "I think praise at an early age could easily make someone arrogant, so I was lucky to have my family at my side to keep me grounded," she tells Refinery29 Australia.
Mary hasn't always found it easy to deal with people’s expectations of who she could and should be and admits that she regularly reminds herself that when people are applying pressure, it's usually because they believe she's capable of achieving great things.
"When I see it like that, then I don’t see a bunch of people who are trying to put me down and make me become a certain person," Mary says. "Instead, I see people who believe I could achieve something great. And it’s a blessing to be held in that regard."
As is the case for many world-class athletes, becoming a professional soccer player has seen Mary move to the other side of the world. She traded Queensland's Trinity Beach for France where she played for Montpellier for four years. Then, in mid-2022, she made the move to chilly Manchester after signing a four-year deal with Manchester City. But despite the shake-up, she's prioritised finding ways to look after herself while away from home.
"Even though we train almost every day, we actually have a lot of free time, so I make sure to make the most of it by disconnecting from anything to do with football and doing some things I enjoy," Mary says, adding that she likes to "hang around at the [football] club" to study or knock a few things off her to-do list — so by the time she gets home, she can really unwind and relax. "When we have days off, I like to hang out with some of my teammates. We often go exploring to check out different things to do in Manchester."
Part of what Mary prioritises is feeling comfortable and confident — both on and off the field — and that has a lot to do with the clothes she wears and the personal mementoes from home that she keeps close by at all times.
"I’m usually in track pants and a top, like the Tiro Track Suit. I love to warm up in them and throw them on after my training is done for the day," she says of the versatile suit, adding that footwear is also important since she's always on the go. "When I’m going to the games, I [also] always wear a special necklace that was given to me by my boyfriend."
Mary has seen immense success in a short amount of time, but it's impossible to forget that, historically, soccer has been considered a man's game. As of 2019, Australian women were underrepresented in all levels of the sport — only 21% of players and 24% of board members were women. Like most industries, the gender pay gap has also traditionally been stark. Thankfully, we have seen some progress on this front in recent years, with Australia becoming the first country in the world to guarantee its top men's and women's teams earn the same amount as of 2019.
Mary hopes for more progress but also admits she feels like she's entered the women's game at a very exciting time, where it's growing in popularity and she's able to reap the benefits the players who came before her fought so hard for. "I’m very aware that it hasn’t always been like this for female footballers, so I’m grateful for all the sweat that’s been put into progressing the women’s game," she says.
"People are starting to recognise that women can play really well, [just like men]. Recently there has been so much exposure for female footballers at big tournaments and women have shown their value and skills. I think as time goes on, things will only get better for female footballers because the more we get seen, the more we break the stereotypes that women’s football isn't of a high standard."
Given 50% of Australian girls drop out of sport by age 17, hopefully, these changes continue so girls feel more welcome on the field and have a chance to become the next Mary Fowler.
To get Mary's cosy look, you can find her Tiro Track Suit and Avryn sneakers from the new Sportswear range at adidas. The diverse range is made to match the fluid lifestyles of Gen-Z and is available online and in-store now.