Chelsea forward Fran Kirby says she is “happy and proud” to be part of Great Britain’s women’s football squad for the Tokyo Olympics having recovered from a debilitating heart condition.
The 28-year-old was diagnosed with pericarditis in 2019, leaving her struggling to perform even the most basic functional movements and finding it hard to communicate.
Kirby returned to the pitch in August 2020 and helped Chelsea to the FAWSL title and the Continental Cup, also reaching the Champions League final.
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She scored 25 goals in all competitions, forming a formidable strike partnership with Australia international Sam Kerr, and was awarded the Professional Footballers’ Association and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards.
Kirby has been included in the Team GB women’s football squad, who fly out to Tokyo on Wednesday, and is grateful the postponement of the Games has given her the opportunity to compete.
“I knew I wasn’t in a position to be selected for the  Olympics and I never thought about Olympic selection this time because I was basically starting from scratch,” Kirby told BBC Sport.
“I just thought ‘if I get to play some part of Chelsea’s season, then great’.
“When I got the email, I was like ‘wow’, all the hard work that you’ve done has paid off because you are going to be part of something that’s incredible.
“It’s quite funny. My aunties always believe I’m the best player ever, regardless of whether I play well or not, so when I told them, they were like ‘of course you’ve been selected’. That’s just your family, isn’t it? They always believe you are the best.
“Everyone was just really happy for me after everything I’ve gone through. I stayed with them as much as I could during everything, so they saw it first hand.
For me to tell them I got selected was really special. It was a massively proud moment for me and my family.
Kirby says she was inspired by the London 2012 Olympics when Great Britain had a women’s football team competing for the first time.
She added: “My highlight of London 2012 was seeing the girls play at Wembley, seeing the crowd and them going out there and really inspiring people to get behind women’s football.
“I think that was the turning point for women’s football in this country and hopefully we can take it one step further and inspire those who are watching to think ‘I can go and play in the Olympics as a Team GB footballer’.”
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