Featured image: Clark University article from ‘Bend it Like Beckham’
It has been almost two weeks since the FIFA football World Cup Final and the World Cup Fever has just about calmed down. As I live in England, football or as Americans call it, ‘soccer,’ is the nation’s favourite sport. During the World Cup, my days were jam-packed with football matches being constantly on and the English nation ceremoniously coming together whenever England played, our one profound act of patriotism.
Whilst I counted down to the days to the World Cup and watched it almost religiously, I felt guilty and like a ‘bad feminist’ for not even knowing when the women’s World Cup was on and barely knowing who was on the England women’s team.
I live in a household of avid football fans. However, I hardly watch football of any sort unless it is the World Cup. So maybe if I was a greater football fan I would have made an active effort to engage with women’s football more than I currently do.
Admittedly, It is all not my fault. Women’s football in the U.K. is not ‘hyped up’ or shown nearly as much as men’s. Every pub or bar you would go into in England would be showing the men’s world cup and subconsciously the media and radio familiarise you with players as they constantly talk about them. The same cannot be said when Women’s football is on.
This is obviously something that has to be addressed: the World Cup is male-dominated through players, commentators, referees all being male. Women’s roles are primarily being girlfriends or wives of the players.
In England at least, women’s football viewing is significantly lower than men. I wondered why this was? Was it just because the men’s premier league and the World Cup is just more famous? Is it because it has a different history? Or is it because there is sexism where football in England is seen as a ‘male’ sport and people automatically think that women’s football isn’t as good?
Unfortunately, people in 2018 STILL believe that women’s football is inferior when this is just not the case. The England male team is praised more than the women’s despite the women’s doing significantly better in competitions for example in the last Women’s World cup England came third place and it was barely celebrated. Whereas the male team came fourth this time and a tube stop was renamed after the manager Gareth Southgate as a celebration.
For this previously male-dominated sport to become more accessible for girls and women representation is vital, and this all comes from more coverage and more role models for girls. Yes, there is a women’s world cup but it needs to have the excitement and vigour and passion of the men’s world cup, it also needs to be seen as much of an important competition as the male world cup.
But as many have previously said, the beautiful game fails women with low investment and low support. It has been an ongoing problem since women started playing football, it has been an upward struggle for them to fight for the legitimacy male players get when playing the same game. They have had to fight through condescending remarks from men who think they own the game.
Recently, it was revealed that the women’s Barcelona F.C. team travelled in economy whereas the male team travelled in first class. The priority to the male team over the women was also seen by me when I went to Barcelona in June and visited Camp Nou, in the museum the history of the male team took up probably 99% of the space whereas the women’s team was given a small corner to document their history.
A popular response seems to be that due to a mane’s sport being more popular and therefore accumulating a greater revenue they can afford to go, first class, whereas the women team can’t.
However, this underlines how women’s football needs to become more popular for an abundance of reasons.
I remember from a young age football being a sport seemingly ‘owned’ by boys, they played it in the playground in my primary school excluding girls from this sport. The boy’s teams in my primary school were treated with so much more importance than the girls’ teams with them going to more competitions. From then, they saw it as a men’s sport. Hopefully, now things are changing and have changed with girl’s sport being treated with just as much importance as men’s sport.
I can say things are changing for the better, with women’s sport and football gaining more popularity and legitimacy even from a young age. With adverts and tv programs showing young girls playing sport and football, something that wasn’t as common in adverts and tv programs when I was growing up,
I for one will make an active effort to watch both men and women’s football, both which I know are equally as good.