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Articles > Sports & Fitness July, 14, 2014

Women with balls – football is no longer a man’s game

Plamena Solakova
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I have gotten increasingly irritated by guys who keep asking ‘But how come you like football, you are a girl?‘. At first I ignored the question, now I can’t anymore. Old-fashioned gender stereotypes which imply women don’t do, watch, or like sports, especially ‘masculine’ sports such a football, are really a thing of the 1950s.

In fact, as rightfully pointed out by Sue Bridgewater at the Guardian, in many countries, including the USA, there are more women who play football (soccer) than men, and in England for example there are over 1.7 million women who play the game nowadays, in contrast to declining numbers for men.

Many of us, young women, genuinely enjoy watching the World Cup, and contrary to common beliefs that we only do it to stare at the attractive and well-groomed bodies of football players like Ronaldo and Marcelo, some of us actually know the game rules and are passionate about our teams winning. Just as boys are.

Meanwhile, marketing strategies and PR companies have shocked the world once again. I read a column at the Evening Standard just as the tournament was starting, where a furious lady was complaining about a vitamin capsules ad she had seen: ‘Ladies: Don’t be a World Cup widow this summer. Use the extra time to your advantage by bagging a Brazilian-style booty’. I most certainly agree with the lady’s frustration and can’t help but wonder: one – who says we have extra time, we might in fact be busier fitting games in our anyhow-intense lifestyles (just as a reminder – women work, raise children, take care of the house and the family business, and largely – rule the world). Two – what’s with the Brazilian-style booty obsession? Here I will only mention J Lo’s (revealing) outfit at the Opening Ceremony. And three – marketing companies, please get over yourselves and realise once and for all that women do in fact love football. You might as well increase your sales by gender-neutral ads instead of old-fashioned comments like the one above.

And one last point: it is a well-known fact that domestic violence against women increases substantially at times of major sporting events. The National Centre for Domestic Violence has repeatedly warned of increased levels of domestic abuse during the World Cup games with evidence showing 25% increase in incidents after England Games at the 2010 tournament. For 2014, after the first game of England vs Italy, police in Kent said it had responded to 21 extra incidents in the county on Saturday and Sunday immediately after the match, compared with the previous weekend. Seeing as England was out so quickly in the last World Cup ladies at home could probably relax a bit. On a serious note though – in addition to high levels of viewers’ engagement and passion for the game and even increased nationalist sentiment, money betting may contribute further to increased aggression during the matches.

In England betting seems to be a national sport compared to other European nations; believe me I’ve lived in six countries during my lifetime and never seen it at such a scale as here. It is no surprise then that doctors advise to stay away from aggressive viewers during and immediately after the games, even if the home team is not playing, and in cases of abuse to contact immediately the police or the national domestic violence hotline. And a piece of advice for male fans of the World Cup – please believe me when I say women love football as much as you do and don’t deserve to get punished for it.

And if you are a woman and you feel especially enthusiastic to share your love for football after reading my wonderful piece, you may want to check out Facebook as there are actual pages on there uniting girls who love football and have thousands of ‘likes’. Go show them how you kick it.

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  1. Zara McCorkindale

    I played football from a very young age right the way through until secondary school. In primary school none of the boys cared that a girl was playing football; but in junior school I had to score a penalty in order to be allowed to play (of which I did in style) and from that day it was accepted. At secondary school I strictly wasn’t allowed to (even enforced by teachers) so that I didn’t hurt myself. I had to join the Sixth Form girls’ team in Year 7 and was judged a lot by the boys and girls in my year. So I gave up in Year 9 and to this day I regret that I did. Netball was seen to be “the thing” and I did that instead but it was never as much fun.
    I don’t think it’s fair to make a girl give up football just because they’re not deemed good enough or that it’s “a man’s game”. I wish I never gave it up but I urge others like me to keep playing football if that’s what you enjoy.

  2. Sarjon Dosanjh

    Football is Arguably the worlds most popular sports hence is aimed to attract all audiences whether you are Male or Female. However the stereotype of football is a mans game unsurprisingly puts many women off football regardless of whether they enjoy the sport or not.

    • claire taylor

      i don`t even watch the mens game anymore, full of overpaid, over rated , whiny , nitwits.

      its also funny hearing guys saying the players are “less skillful or less technical” have little to no knowledge of the women’s game, league , national teams, or make the effort. same lazy responses. The quality has come on leaps and bounds , id say technically especially players like tobin heath, marta and necib are as good as any guy. The players are also great , accessible and always interacting with fans on and off the pitch

      and people do watch it, the USWNT world cup final game was the most watched soccer game in US history, GB women had 70,000 or more at wembly, Brazil women 40,000 are olympics….

      its only getting bigger and better …:)

  3. lewis marshall

    While I have nothing against women playing football (in fact it’s good that women are not being held back by gender stereotypes), I will not make an effort to watch it. Having watched a game of women’s football, I have no desire to watch what is essentailly a slower, less entertaining and less skillful version of the sport that has captivated people for hundreds of years.

  4. Jasmin Abbasi

    I think it is a matter of personal interest rather than stereotypes. For example, in my nearby community the minority is actually the women that do not watch futbol. The reason for this is simple: the culture has a focus on futbol not caring about your gender and it is like this all throughout south america. The real problem is when other sports dominate the countries traditions or cultures. In U.S.A sports such as baseball or American Football dominate therefore a woman’s involvement in other games such as football or even games like polo or cricket become less usual. Therefore its a matter of personal interest and enviroment rather than stereotypes because the situation is different around the globe.

  5. Dylan Rollins

    Well I grew up in an all-female household with an almost entirely female immediate family, and have always viewed men and women as essentially being equal (after getting out of the primary school “boys are better than girls” phase). However, during this World Cup I noticed that my sister had suddenly become football-mad, behaviour which I assumed to be fake and simply due to trying to fit in with the obvious hype surrounding the competition, and made several remarks about this to her. However, despite loving the game itself, I have never shown any real interest in the sport at any professional level, and essentially only obsessed over the World Cup for the same reasons as my sister was probably doing so. I guess I automatically assumed my enthusiasm was more genuine because I’m a guy and a lot of my male friends were into it, despite being in the same boat as my sister.

    In terms of the coverage and support women’s football gets, however, it’s important to consider the fact that there is already a massive industry surrounding men’s football, which is tried and tested in terms of making money. Most businesses aren’t interested in breaking new ground or furthering gender equality, as their primary purpose is to make profit. I can’t say I’ve watched enough women’s football to be able to comment on how entertaining it is, but I would assume that as a whole men are given more opportunity to further their skills, leading to a higher level of talent on the pitch.

    I do think it’s important to realise that football fans can be both male and female, and that advertisers are missing a trick by not targeting women in the same way they do men. I of course also feel everybody should be given the same opportunity to develop their skills if they show promise and determination. However, I think it’s important to consider that equality in any area of football will not necessarily be easy to obtain.

  6. Andrew Bleakley

    Football is still a male dominant force and will always will be by the looks of things. It is good that women’s football is becoming bigger but just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you need to watch women’s football. Without trying to be sexist, male football is more entertaining to watch as the talent level is much higher as there is also a bigger culture which revolves around it which will draw more people in.

    • Mary Ann Yeboah Ann Yeboah

      Sadly, I agree with you Andrew Bleakley (“male football is more entertaining to watch”). However, I feel, that may only be the case simply because there has always been greater press attention to male football.

  7. Callum Robertson

    I think that it is brilliant that women’s football is becoming a bugger thing. It used to be a man dominated sport but the uprising of women playing as skillfully or sometimes better than the men is a fantastic thing for football as a whole.

  8. Cara Osang

    Such a big deal is made out of male football players, with the world cup getting major viewing figures. Before the Olympic games in 2012, I didn’t even know that women could play football professionally. It just shows how much attention is on the men’s games as opposed to the women

    • Yovani Umavassee

      More airing time should be allocated to female football. If I recall, there is a female world cup which unfortunately is rarely aired on television and hence not made available to the broad public.

  9. Adam Steele

    Huge respect for woman footballers. If they decide to have a child they have to take time out and getting back to the level you were at isn’t easy by any means.

  10. I love football, playing it doesn’t mean we’re trying to be lads. we are unique

  11. Alizee Bollen

    It’s about time, we need more ladies into football, it’s an amazing sport and theres no reason more girls shouldn’t get involved. I think that the media should support womens football more, I mean when was the last time the Womens World cup was in the news? It’s a working progress but I think it will do nothing but good to womens self esteems and make men respect us more. Equity is key!

  12. scott brooks

    So some, and by some I mean a small percentage of, women enjoy football. Well that is great! Seriously! But I know tha!. Any eejits out there who still believe in 2014 that football is for men only and only men enjoy it won’t be reading this article. So what’s your point?
    I’m not saying it’s a good or bad thing, but all the stereotypes created over the years are primarily the same today. Little girls play with barbies. Little boys play with balls. It’s the way our brains are made. Some girls play football do they? Well maybe I’ll write an article explaining how some men wear pink shirts!!!
    At the end of the day, football is a man’s game, in that it suits the male psyche far better than the female. Arts and crafts are better suited for the typical woman. Play footy by all means, but if you want to be recognised for something, bring up your kids right, cook a nice roast dinner on a sunday, decorate your house nice. You know…that sort of thing!!! 😉

    • Laura Mcilroy

      I think… Wow, you actually just went there, and no – I don’t ‘know…that sort of thing’.

  13. Ashleigh Reynolds

    Girls should be allowed to play football but there just shouldn’t be a mix gender group. Not because of sexism, simply because it is a fact that males are built stronger than females so the females in that team would be at a disadvantage towards the males.

  14. Ellie Simpson

    I love football and I’m a girl – and not a tomboy, a girly-girl! I don’t see why it’s so male-orientated, but it doesn’t stop my enjoyment of the game!

  15. Melinda Walker

    Women’s football should get as much coverage as mens football. This country needs to move out of the dark ages

  16. Catharine Jones

    Ladies football is being recognised more now with games being televised but there is still along way to go with gender equality. The more we recognise and demand for ladies football the less of a gap in the playing field.

  17. John Wadeson

    Huge respect for female footballers
    Annoys me with how much footballers get paid cause im sure female players dont get anywhere near the same amount.

    Women are allowed to do everything in this country so why not play football. Sure they play better then the english team half the time

  18. mehwish akber

    Girls can do anything in this world. They give birth to people who shines and progress. In real, women can beat any team in sport field,
    once they decided to.

  19. Rebecca Healey

    here here since the 2012 London Olympics there has been a huge increase in sport including women/girls playing football. i go and watch football every weekend during the football season and i see an equal amount of women watching the football as men. There are also more families going to watch as it is something the whole family can do together.

  20. Christian Horn

    There should be no sexism in sport and women are often better supporters as they don’t get too into it. women are also decent footballers and the England ladies team is better than the men’s team right now

  21. Emily Almond

    Sexism shouldn’t exist in sport, everyone can watch play and enjoy every sport that exists. I do believe that men may be better at playing some sports such as football and rugby, but that doesn’t restrict females from enjoying the sport too.

  22. Dene Field

    Men/Boys and Women/Girls football should be treated as an equal, the same as society should be. ‘SHOULD’ i state, but unfortunately its not, and I feel, as i’m sure many others do that this should change, simple as.

    – Dene –