Footballer Emma Mukandi 'faked injury to hide her pregnancy'

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Pro footballer 'faked injury to hide pregnancy'Ross MacDonald - SNS Group - Getty Images

Emma Mukandi has accused her club of failing to support her as a new mother, describing that she felt ‘left to the side’ during her nine months away from the game after giving birth to daughter Innes in November 2021.

Speaking on Off the Ball’s COYGIG Podcast, the Reading captain opened up about her experiences with the ‘maternity minefield of pro football’.

At the beginning of her pregnancy, Emma revealed that she faked an injury as there were no maternity conditions in her contract at the time.

‘There was nothing in the contracts to say there was anything in place so I didn’t want to tell anybody in case it didn’t go down well,’ Mukandi shares.

‘I know now if you tear your ACL for example and you play at Reading you’re going to be looked after, but I definitely think there’s not enough stuff in place to make women feel like they could actually do it [have a baby].’

Ever since Emma returned to the game and played her first league match for Reading at the beginning of this season, she has experienced a whole host of issues with juggling her career and her daughter - which the club’s policies have only made worse.

On top of having to breast pump in a cupboard, Emma has been banned from bringing her child onsite, with the club blaming the ruling on their insurance.

‘They basically said it was a club policy and that they didn’t have the right insurance to cover it but I just feel like that’s a bit of a cop out,’ says Emma. ‘For me, I was just a bit more disappointed because they never came and spoke to me. It was just this email that got put out.’

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While new agreements on maternity leave were implemented at the start of the 2022-23 season, the conditions only agree to full pay for the first 14 weeks of maternity leave leaving it to the individual clubs to decide whether they want to continue supporting new mothers.

‘They’ve put this policy out, and I feel like there’s such a grey area,’ shares Emma. ‘It comes down to whatever club you’re at. Like if you’re at an Arsenal or a Chelsea or a Man City and you’ve got loads of money, great facilities and that, having a baby there is not an issue at all but I think the lower down the league you go it’s easier for club CEOs to be like ‘No, this isn’t happening.’

Emma adds: ‘If I was to have a kid now, I don’t think I’d be able to return 14 weeks after giving birth. Bearing in mind that your body is your job.

‘So, who has even come up with that? Surely not someone who has played football and had a baby. Is that a man?’

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