Any of a number of games played between two teams and involving kicking or in some cases handling a ball (OED).
The female members of a family, household, or other group, etc.; womenfolk. (OED).
A short history of women’s beautiful game
Go back almost 100 years, and you would be surprised to discover that you can’t get into a big Boxing Day game played by, yes, women footballers. You might be less surprised to discover that women’s game was officially banned in 1921 because it was ‘quite unsuitable for females’.
Now, almost a century after the ban, women’s football is growing in strength and popularity, but it seems like some menfolk struggle to accept that it’s here to stay. At Down the Language Hole HQ, I have spent hours clarifying and womansplaining to various representatives of the male species why women’s football is not a joke or a hobby sport.
If you exclude one group from playing a sport, claim it for yourself and have all the time in the world to build your reputation and popularity, those re-entering the pitch will not be able to compete with your achievements and history. And your global fan following that stretches well beyond friends and family members. So, yes, women play to nearly empty stadiums and get paid pocket money. None of the male football stars would ever lower themselves to that level for the love of football. And yet, women turn up on the pitch, day after day, despite the jeering and lack of interest.
Be a game changer
To help you argue better in defence of women’s game, I have listed a few ideas you might find useful. And don’t forget to watch at least some matches in the Women’s World Cup. You might enjoy them!
- The power of storytelling and identities. Football, as it is today, is often the main connecting narrative in many men’s lives, spanning across generations and communities. It’s part of their collective identity and anyone who has ever seen boys or grown men trying to bond will realise what a powerful WD-40 it is in most social interactions. For men, to find a fellow club supporter at a party is to welcome one more brother from another mother into their tribe. Women’s football has never been part of those narratives but give it a generation or two of girls and boys watching it and playing together and see what happens.
- Football is about power. The Man Utd supporters find their strength in numbers. Watching their favourite football team win is equal to them belonging to something bigger and much greater than themselves. And they can legitimately get their innate urge to kick other men’s asses out of their system, mainly by chanting songs, not wielding swords.Today’s footballers are superhuman athletes who are everywhere – in adverts, on posters and in countless collections of football cards. Boys want to be like them. Grown men act as if they were at least Maradona. As a result, men’s football has become a global money-making machine that women cannot compete with. So, instead of earning millions each month, most women players train alongside their daytime jobs. Not to disregard Messi or Ronaldo but there is a lot to be said for women’s motivation to turn up to training without the same rewards. Just saying.One way to solve it would be to ask major clubs to invest their spare millions in improving access to sporting facilities for all; it would be a right step towards us becoming a more egalitarian and healthier country. It wouldn’t hurt to equalise earnings a bit more as beyond a certain threshold nobody needs another million or 25 in the bank.
- Gender politics. When talking about women’s football we just can’t ignore the G-word. If I got a penny for every time a guy told me that women’s game wasn’t as good as men’s football, I would be rolling in it by now while wearing CR7’s new line of (unworn) underpants on my head.Why are women expected to imitate the male style of kicking a ball and scoring goals? Surely, there must be more than one way to play football and make its fans roar with pride (or weep tears of disappointment) after each goal. Also, pitting women’s teams against men or teenage boys only discourages girls from playing football for fear of being ridiculed. Such tactics reinforce the damaging stereotype that only men know how to play real football. How about, please hold your breath and bear with me, accepting women’s football for what it is: a sport which is played and owned by women and which is valuable and deserving respect in its own right? Revolutionary, right?
Whatever gender you identify with, give women’s football a go. Go ahead and criticise it but watch at least three beautiful games played by women before you judge them.
Question the morality of the male stars’ pay and demand social justice. So much more could be done with a fraction of their and their clubs’ profits to give children in our communities access to facilities that will set them up for a healthy and fit life.
Lastly, for any hardcore football fans out there, women’s football can give you a much-needed closure.
From the Language Hole HQ
I love listening to Always Take Notes
I love reading Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
I love watching Women’s World Cup. Obviously.