Women’s football: Times have changed … or have they?

“What World Cup are you on about?” was the common response when discussing the recent Women’s World Cup. “The women’s football one… In Germany!” This usually resulted in either an arched eyebrow, as if to say ‘Must we really waste precious time discussing this’, or a soft smile, almost as when you’re explaining something quite obvious to a child, followed by “But come on now, it’s girls…they aren’t REALLY any good. Anyway, it’s a lads sport.”

It is difficult to promote women’s football to men, reflecting back on conversations such as above, when you think progress is being made, there is still plenty of work to do before the next Women’s World Cup comes around to makeE sure it not only gets the coverage and column inches it deserves, but to gain the interest of the everyday football fan both male and female.

Football is the world’s only truly global sport and it should be a leader in equality and open to everyone, anywhere and at any time regardless of race, age or gender. There are plenty of girls out there looking for something to be passionate about, lots of whom might have grown up playing with brothers, dads or just happened upon a football at one point or other- so why not football, after all, it is better to be passionate about something than nothing! What exactly would we, as girls, lose from playing a sport some of us love just as much as the next male? (from the figures of how many girls keep signing up to play, there’s quite of few of you out there eager to try, even just for the fun of it).

So let’s look at the common arguments: Playing football makes us girls butch and unattractive…wrong, there are some gorgeous players out there, and I bet all the boys who picked up the Slitz (think the equivalent of FHM in Sweden) issue featuring a half naked Josefine Oqvist a while back didn’t have any complaints… To be fair, she claimed to have lost the clothes to prove just that point. That there’re plenty of hot players out there working what they’ve got, and why shouldn’t they.

Equally though, what on earth does attractive levels have to do with the sport? Men’s football may have a few Beckham’s but they’re not all model-material, let’s be honest! But this isn’t why we are drawn to the game.

If you claim it’s a bad idea for girls to participate in football because you need get fit to play, should you guys really keep encouraging us to go to the gym in general? Why do so many men tune in to the women’s tennis at Wimbledon to see very toned ladies? Beach volleyball is fast becoming a male favourite due to the bikini team wear that leaves little to the imagination (those girls don some impressive six packs that would make many a footballer feel a bit intimidated but such physiques are half the reason the sport appeals to many men).

To some women’s football may not be as entertaining to watch as the men’s, perhaps it’ll never be as fast, as brutal or as sissy (yes I’m looking at you Cristiano, you may be talented, but we all know you fall over a bit too easy mister). But men’s football, at times, isn’t all that great either and working with the TV broadcasting of the Premier League I’ve had the chance to sit in on many a Premier League game over the years. Have you seen Arsenal not make an effort? Or Chelsea play half assed? It’s painful. Come on guys. But we still watch it, as passionate fans of the beautiful game.

A Women’s World Cup game may not be quite like watching Messi make magic but neither is watching the men’s Swedish top flight or quite frankly the England national side (last year’s World Cup anyone?!).

Actually, thinking about it, very few things rival watching Messi, male or female, but quite often these days, a top level women’s game can be a game of beautiful, entertaining and passionate football. The players are there because they love the game and you see some real girl power in there.

No one in their right mind in the Western world would try to tell us we couldn’t aim for the high paying jobs, study whatever we like at school or be a world-class tennis player, ballerina or whatever else is acceptable for females to do. So why do we back down when the men in our lives, be it our family, friends or our boyfriends, tell us that football isn’t for girls, that it’s not a womanly thing to be doing, that we should steer clear of it for the sake of dignity and go be a cheerleader with a pretty face instead?

Earlier this year one of the frequent media bod’s turned around and tutted at me when he found out I had played in various ladies teams up until a few years ago. I believe his exact words were “Ah that’s cute… Come on now though, you’re far too pretty for that. Bet you don’t miss it.” And an approving nod, as if that put the world right again. I told him I missed it terribly. To be fair I don’t think he heard much in between getting my boobs confused with the eye line.

Don’t get me wrong. Not all guys have this attitude. In fact prominent players like Rio Ferdinand spoke out in defense of women on the field (granted, for referees) during the whole Andy Gray and Richard Keys debacle earlier in the year. And quite a few every day guys have no problem with it, in fact a handful even encourage it.

So next time you see a female match cheer for the girls, whether they’re 12 years old trying to find a field to play on or 20 something representing your nation in national competition. Let’s encourage anyone who wants to be involved in the beautiful game, a global, all encompassing sport, that can bond strangers in the street and where language isn’t even a barrier. Women’s football is here to stay, so let’s support it all the way!

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  1. Abi says:

    Whole heartedly agree! Elegantly written and a point very well made x

  2. Rob says:

    I agree with the sentiment. If girls love football, play it, enjoy it and get all you can from it, it’s a beautiful game to be enjoyed by all.

    I think the problem occurs when some1 asks people to consider it on the same level as the mens game. It simply isn’t.

    While you still have the amateur level of goal keeping and a slower pace, it’s going to be so hard to present this as something to ever be considered as a realistic alternative / supplement.

  3. Niko says:

    It is the keepers for me that cost too many goals when you have a half-decent game on there hands! I am a man obviously and I am all for hot women footballers, problem is the mentality of the game is anti-sexy, as you said to be considered an equal is what is wanted, but get smart ladies, you will gain the biggest following from males in the short-term and sex sells, so play to your strengths!

  4. Bri says:

    Well said! I love playing football and played on a co-ed league when I just got brave enough to play on a league in my adult years. What I found weird and wrong about it, is that if a woman scored a goal, it counted as 2…why? What made my goal any different from a mans? And while at Uni, someone told me I shouldn’t join the football club because it’s just a bunch of lesbians. Granted, this is not the case but the steretype as you pointed out. I hope people realise now what a fabulous game this is for women too after your great post!

  5. Leo Kabeya says:

    I loved this year’s world cup! The level of play was much higher then the 09 world cup! I loved watching Brazil, USA, Japan and France some of the player were just great and I remember watching the Copa America game between Brazil and Paraguay, Brazil was playing so bad that the fans were crying out “we want Martha”! And that shows that the woman’s game is progressing. I can’t wait for the Olympics and living in london I will be able to view some of those matches and I can’t wait for the next World Cup! The youngsters coming through for Germany, Japan, Mexico, Colombia, France and USA are just scary good!

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