Here Come The Women…

Date published: Monday 24th August 2015 1:18

Here Come The Women...

You might be looking at the fixture lists and wondering what on earth you’re going to do for the next two months. Once the Champions League final is over, that’s your lot for club football until those impotent pre-season tournaments begin.
But there is some major football going on. The Under-21 Euros get under way in mid June and before that, on June 6, the Women’s World Cup starts in Canada and runs for the whole month, though I note that the Guardian’s fixture lists manage to exclude it entirely. Someone should have their organic quinoa porridge confiscated for that.
About once every year for the last decade and a half, I write a pro-women’s football piece. This is that piece for 2015. If talk of anything female and football annoys you, bail out at this point as you’ll just get cross.
Because as night follows day, my pro-women’s football piece provokes a hostile response from a noisy minority who seem to see, even just briefly, on one occasion, talking about women’s football as part of some liberal panty-wetter’s PC agenda, as though no-one could ever really like it as a sport and to say you enjoy women’s football is all part of larger feminist political agenda (it is, deal with it).
Time and again I am told by readers that women’s football is not as good as men’s football and therefore not worthy of attention, as though these people are slaves to higher aesthetics and never watch awful football played by men.
There were those that find it actually amusing that women should even try to play football. How would they find the time between shopping for shoes and talking about periods? Every sexist cliché that you can think of is hurled at those men, like me, who support the women’s game. I regularly suggested that women’s teams should be called, just that, women’s teams and not ‘ladies’. It’s not ‘gentleman’s’ football, is it? So why ‘ladies’? In this context, it always seemes a patronising word to use, with echoes of a moral judgement. This was too much for one reader, who really did say it was political correctness gone mad and suggested that should I ever come to his town, he would bite my face off. This seemed a bit odd on many levels. But as you’ll notice it isn’t the Ladies World Cup, now, is it? Good.
The ‘back in the kitchen, darling’ days now seem to be largely behind us – or at least those who would gleefully say such things mercifully just keep quiet, but it’s pointless to pretend the women’s game isn’t still subjected to occasionally grotesque patriarchal perspectives.
Last year, a well-meaning if gauche Phil Neville did suggest that one of the reasons women’s football was getting more popular was because the players looked good. Yes Phil, because there are no lovely women available for men to objectify anywhere else in life, are they? Oh and by the way, it is actually possible to enjoy women’s sport without knocking one out whilst watching. The critique that women’s football always used to get was, first and foremost, that the goalkeepers were rubbish, and this was often true. Because we all go to the football to see a great goalkeeper don’t we? Who amongst us has not walked out of a game, disgusted by the poor quality goalkeeper?
Then it was said that it wasn’t as fast. Well, no, it isn’t. It was said the tackles were not as frequent or as aggressive. Nope, they’re not. It was sneered at because they didn’t kick the ball as hard. That’s often true, also. It’s also true that they don’t often throw themselves to the ground, hysterically feigning injury or squaring up to each other in faux macho displays of aggression. This is all because women’s football is not men’s football.
The male standard is not the criteria against which to judge women’s sport. The women’s game is different. You enjoy it for what it is, not hate it for what it isn’t. No-one would think of devaluing female athletes because they’re not as fast or strong as male athletes, but for years this was said of women’s football.
The World Cup is a big deal. There will be some superb football played out to big crowds. England are drawn in a group with France, Colombia and Mexico and have a very good chance of progressing to the knock-out stages. The bookies have USA as favourites with Germany, Brazil and France close behind. These are certainly the elite teams and, if there are still any doubters of the quality of the women’s game, watching any of them should once and for all settle that nonsense.
Of course, women’s football was hugely popular a century ago, drawing huge crowds in the 1920s. So popular, in fact, that the FA banned it for, oooh, about 60 years, fearing it would undermine the men’s game. Men are more important than women, you see. So women’s football was all-but outlawed and women playing football derided and culturally sneered at. It’s taken a long time, but this is lie we no longer believe. And now, in 2015, rather brilliantly, it is a major world sporting event. The goalies are still rubbish though.

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