“The fear was paralyzing, it affected the way I did everything.”
Not the words you might expect to hear from a teenage boy who was a promising football academy player.
But for Sammy Walker, it wasn’t playing football that was the trigger, it was playing football as a male.
At the age of 15, Walker had a “light bulb moment” – she realised she was transgender.
It wasn’t long before she hung up her football boots, claiming her passion was “lost” to the terror of being taunted for who she really was.
But joining an LGBTQ+ football team has helped Walker, now 29, rediscover her love of the game.
Football was a huge part of Walker’s early life.
From the age of four, she would often be found kicking a ball in the local park in Milton Keynes and she became a keen supporter of West Ham United – the first side she ever watched – after falling for the atmosphere at Upton Park.
It was not long before she was scouted by Wycombe Wanderers and then Premier League side Watford to join its academy.
But away from this sporting talent Walker was struggling with her identity. -BBC