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Premier League celebrates International Women’s Day

Chelsea's Reece James and other Premier League stars talk about what International Women's Day means to them and the unfinished work it represents.

Premier League players have been celebrating International Women’s Day by saluting the ongoing progress being made in the women’s game and discussing the incredible role models, including the USWNT, leading the way.

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As part of Women’s History Month, NBC Sports has been speaking with players from across the Premier League about inspirational women, what women’s history month means to them and how they hope the world can become even more inclusive in the years ahead.

Manchester City stars Kevin de Bruyne and Rose Lavelle both agreed that visibility on TV across the globe is key for inspiring the next generation of female players, and fans.

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“I had always envisaged myself playing professional soccer but I don’t think I ever really understood the magnitude of what that meant,” Lavelle said when asked about being a role model. “I know how important it was for me to have female role models to look up to. I was obsessed with Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Julie Foudy, all of them. It was so important for me to see them and know that I wanted to be in their shoes one day. It’s kind of cool that I now found myself in their shoes and I feel like it has kind of gone full circle so I can now give back to the sport in the same way it has given to me.”

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De Bruyne added that on International Women’s Day everyone should be focused on supporting women’s sport as much as they possibly can to help it continue to grow.

“It comes with awareness. Obviously it is getting better,” De Bruyne said. “There are more opportunities for people to see women play football. I’ve seen the difference in the last couple of years in England with matches being on TV and I think that more and more people are coming to these games. This is one of the main influences people can have to grow women’s sport. It is really, really important that a lot of people watch them and support them.”

Premier League players on the importance of International Women’s Day

Reflecting on why Women’s History Month is important, Southampton and Scotland midfielder Stuart Armstrong believes this is only the start.

“A lot of the time in the past it has gone under the radar, the importance of it,” Armstrong said. “We’ve seen in history the struggles women have had to go through to get so much as the vote and continue along that path. We are definitely making strides in terms of sport as of late, and a lot more publicity around women’s football coming to the forefront. It is very important and definitely improvements are being made, and long may that continue.”

West Brom defender Conor Townsend sees Women’s History Month being key when it comes to equal opportunities for all.

“It is important to show that we want equality in every day life, in all walks of life,” Townsend said. “Everyone should have the same opportunities regardless of your gender, race, your sexuality, whatever it may be.”

Chelsea defender Reece James knows more than most about the uphill battle women in soccer have faced as his sister, Lauren, plays for Manchester United and England.

“It is great to see that so many women are influential and many people look up to them. Just because of your gender it doesn’t mean people can’t look up to you and you can’t inspire them. That’s the most powerful thing,” James said.

USWNT, Rapinoe an inspiration for Burn

Brighton defender Dan Burn praised USWNT star Megan Rapinoe and the key role she, along with other USWNT superstars, have played in fighting for equal pay and opportunities for women’s soccer at home and across the globe.

Burn was asked to name a women who has inspired him in his life, and here was his answer.

“At the minute it would be Megan Rapinoe,” Burn said. “The work they are doing over there in the pay between the men’s team and the women’s team and talking about equal rights, it is massive. It is good to have role models like that now and you can see how quickly the women’s game is changing. I’ve got a little girl, a two-year-old, and I love it that if she wanted to be a footballer or doing anything like that, she would have people to look up to like that.”

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