30 September 2020

Kaiya McCullough says she left Washington Spirit for Europe to escape ‘atmosphere in US'

Defender Kaiya McCullough has said she chose to leave Washington Spirit so she could play soccer overseas to escape the ‘atmosphere in the US’ created by racism and the pandemic.

She now plays for FC Würzburger Kickers, a second division German club, and she has said the move is giving her a ‘mental health break’.

She told BBC Sport: "I just wanted to put myself in a position to be the absolute best that I could be, and in the environment I was in I just didn't think that was happening for me.

"As stressful as its been moving across the Atlantic Ocean, I think that I definitely will get out of it what I came here for, which is just like a mental health break, just getting out of that atmosphere that was really happening in America right now."

McCullough signed for Spirit earlier this year and she has described her rookie season as ‘overwhelming’ as it coincided with the recent Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd.

She added: "I thought that it was almost my duty to take on the responsibility of educating team-mates and trying to inspire change, and that can be really overwhelming, especially while trying to get your footing in a league you've never played in.

"There were parts when I was asked to compartmentalise what was going on in the world and just focus on my sport, but being a black woman I can't do that, I can't take off the colour of my skin, I can't turn off the feelings of grief that I feel as I mourn with my community."

She also said she went to Germany as they have ‘handled the pandemic pretty well’ in comparison to the US where she 'didn't want to go anywhere, because people just don't wear masks, don't social distance, don't really take precautions’.

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