Football has come a long way in the years I have been around. I had a friend whose catch phrase was that “football is a man’s game”, but now it seems it is increasingly becoming a woman’s one too. This should not come as a surprise of course, as in this day of supposed equality of the sexes there is no logical reason why women should be excluded from participating in football as any other activity.
Going back to my youth when I played the beautiful game with my chums, I recall only one girl ever playing the game and in fairness to the lads she was not discouraged from joining in although she was seen as a bit of a tomboy. Even going into adulthood my own experience of the game was exclusively all male. The one exception was playing after work friendly’s at a UK subsidiary of an US American firm. An American girl who had been seconded to us asked if she could to join our kick arounds. This we allowed; she fitted in well and she was rather good. Apparently girls playing soccer as they call it, sometimes in a mixed setting, was the done thing. Other than occasional stories around females playing football, mainly at the higher levels of the game, I was hardly aware that football was increasingly becoming more than a man’s game.
One of my proud community achievements was as coordinator of the Southend Community-in-Harmony Big Event. Not only did we introduce youth football competitions into the event, as a means to get diverse communities interacting with each other, we were later able to introduce a girls football competition. I was pleasantly surprised to learn how good the girls were and the only area they may have lagged behind the boys is that of physicality. Regarding skill and tactical awareness, they had it in abundance.
I am not a football fanatic yet still follow the game I once played and refereed, especially when it comes to the World Cup. I recently became aware of the Woman’s Football World Cup taking place and that the English team was doing rather well. This is down to the BBC and other media outlets who have to their credit have been covering what was going on, a lot more than previously, else I would not have known. While I have only seen brief glimpses of the games, I have been following the fortune of our girls as I would have our boys, in the past. One of the first news items I checked on this morning is how well they did in the semi final match against Japan. I was sad to learn that they had lost a closely fought match and, even though only just and unluckily, right at the end, it was a bitter blow, in much the same way England’s men’s loss in the semis was all those years ago.
So we can now look forward to a final between the USA and Japan, a line up one would not expect in the men’s equivalent. Well done England ladies – you did us proud! And may the best team win the final. Sadly, there is a lack of senior FIFA representation at these games, unsurprising given recent events, and we look forward to a reformed FIFA continuing to develop the women’s, game along with the men’s. One hopes, helped on by this recent surge in interest, the women’s game will prosper in the UK, especially at grass roots level.