The Women Are A Cleansing Sorbet…

Date published: Monday 24th August 2015 1:17

The Women Are A Cleansing Sorbet...

There’s too much football. It’s fine to admit it. It’s utterly relentless, a bombardment of games and tournaments and friendlies, just when we thought the season was over. The FA Cup final was followed by the Champions League final after which came a couple of England games then the Copa America and oh sweet fancy Moses the European Under-21 Championships is about to start. You start to feel like Roberto Duran being smacked around, but with perpetual football rather than Sugar Ray Leonard’s fists. No más, no más, no más.
However, the Women’s World Cup feels different, somehow. Your friend and mine Johnny Nicholson wrote about the many reasons the tournament is great a couple of weeks ago, so there’s no need to run through them again, but there’s something else too. It’s a newness, a freshness that the women’s game has at the moment and the men’s game lost a long time ago. There’s a lack of cynicism that is hugely refreshing – not necessarily in the tactics (Colombia on Wednesday night seemed profoundly committed to the dark arts of kicking the sh*t out of anything that moved), but the general air.
It’s a group of players under some pressure, because it’s the World Cup, but not so much that it’s suffocating. Playing because they genuinely want to, rather than anything else. Of course, this is a reasonably self-defeating cycle, because the weariness with the men’s game comes from familiarity, and the more you watch the women’s game the more the weariness may grow. But for now, it’s different.
Still, that doesn’t stop some people from trying to ruin all the fun. Mediawatch dealt with Martin Samuel’s curious article in the Daily Mail on Wednesday, in which he carefully explained why the Women’s World Cup has actually been terrible and you haven’t been enjoying it after all. The bit where he tried to turn a light-hearted comment by Mark Sampson into a genuine comparison between Fran Kirby and Leo Messi, then started banging on about context in the very next paragraph, was particularly delightful.
Samuel’s article stuck in the craw particularly because, if he has watched any of the Women’s World Cup, he either hadn’t been paying attention too closely or was being deliberately obtuse. He spent much of the piece complaining about some, in his view, overly-positive promotion for the Women’s World Cup, noting that ‘the BBC seems to specialise in this asinine cheerleading’, implying that Jacqui Oatley and chums had the pom-poms out at every possible opportunity. Yet, if he had watched the BBC’s coverage of England v Mexico, he would’ve seen pundits Rachel Yankey and Trevor Sinclair merrily slagging off England’s first-half performance, and rightly so. In the opening stages they were tentative and looked nervous, and the BBC’s supposedly glee club-esque coverage said so.
In any case, even if the BBC and whoever else are being a little over the top in their whooping up of the World Cup, what precisely is the problem with some enthusiastic hype about the women’s game, or women’s sport in general? These womenfolk have had it too easy for too long, after all. Been a real cushy ride thus far, so it’s about time they were put in their place, eh lads?
After decades of being belittled by people like, oh, say, men, what’s it to you to have a little bit of positivity? Anyone whining about there being just too much of this positivity starts to sound like one of those people who think it’s sexist to have organisations like Women In Sport, or that the MOBOs are racist, or ‘hey, I wouldn’t be allowed to have a straight pride march, so why do they get one?’
In any case, if Samuel needed any evidence as to why a bit of positive thinking and talking would be pretty handy for the women’s game, all he needed to do was take a look at the response to his colleague Oliver Holt’s article on the subject in the Mail on Sunday last weekend.
Actually, what Samuel’s article did was to display exactly why, at the end of a punishing season of constant football, the Women’s World Cup is a cleansing sorbet on our collective palette. There’s a lot to be negative about in football, much of it justifiable negativity, but after a while it gets exhausting, the constant thoughts about ticket prices and Sepp Blatter and stupid kits and Mike Ashley and everything else obscuring the simple game.
Partly because there isn’t as much attention on the Women’s World Cup, there’s less of that around, and while there are problems with the tournament (the ludicrous situation of an international tournament being played on 3G pitches being one of them), it’s easier to just enjoy the thing. It’s a similar theory to the seemingly increasing number of fans who are abandoning the Premier League to go watch their local non-league side; when fewer people are watching there’s less bullshit, sometimes in the form of sour-faced newspaper articles, and it’s thus more enjoyable.
The Women’s World Cup is generally a pretty positive place, and in some respects is closer to football in its purest form than the top levels of the men’s game. So let’s not spoil it with all that negativity, eh?
Nick Miller

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