Woman’s Euro 2022 football final and it’s a man’s game
Around 1990, I was plying my trade as a software engineer with a big US owned company. There were a number of men there that got together, typically weekly, to play football after work. One football enthusiast colleague at the time introduced me to the phrase “it’s a man’s game”. I joined playing but more significantly refereed in games including other companies with who we played. During that time, a lady from the US parent company joined their UK branch. She told us she and a number of other ladies played soccer, often with the men, and asked if she could join us. With little hesitation, we said that was ok and she became a regular participant, proving to be at least as good as many of the men.
Going back 30 years, as a young lad, I played many hours of football with other boys living on my council estate, in the nearby park and even in the road (not much traffic those days). Memories included it was all boys; we made up rules to suit the occasion; we defined the pitch and made up the goals; we sought to even up sides according to skill levels and football was not a game girls played. On those rare occasions when they did play, they were seen as tom boys. My own footballing skills were modest but it was a game I grew to love and be interested in from that time on.
Moving forward 50 years, one of my jobs was organising community events. One feature of those events was a football competition for youth, representing the various community and faith groups that took an interest in our events. It was suggested that along with a boy’s competition, I should arrange one for girls. While initially a little reluctant, it became obvious there was sufficient interest. What impressed me was that while the girls did not match the boys in terms of physicality they did when it came to skill. The competitions (boys and girls) proved successful and became an event highlight.
Moving further on, up to the present, I no longer have the ability (due to disability) to even join kick abouts, although up to some 10-15 years ago I did join my son and his friends playing the beautiful game. While I follow the fortunes of professional teams, I am no longer an avid watcher. As for ladies’ football, while aware of the growing interest, I had not watched an entire lady’s game – that is until yesterday, thanks to the BBC, when England played Sweden in the semi-finals of Euro 2022. I enjoyed the experience and was impressed by the skills on display. Of the four goals England scored, one was very skilfully taken and another showed outstanding audacity, both to match anything we might see in the men’s game. I look forward to watching the final on Sunday, with England in it.
Women’s sports, with football being one of many examples, has come on in leaps and bound since I was a lad. What ladies lack in physicality, they make up in skill, and certain sports, such as football, rugby and cricket, once seen as male only domains, can no longer be regarded as such. I would love to meet up with my colleague of 30 years ago and ask him if he still thinks football is a man’s game?
Update 31/07/22: Much as I wanted to, I wasn’t able to watch the England versus Germany final, but noted, with delight, when I got home that our girls have won. I sense this tournament and the performance of England’s women, has lifted interest in the female version of the beautiful game, at least among the English, to a new high. It can no longer be said: It is a man’s game. Well done ladies!