Try as I might, I just cannot seem to enjoy watching women’s football. Perhaps I’m just so used to the speed and strength of the men at the top level that the women’s game, by comparison, just looks so inferior. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for equality and female empowerment but footballers with ponytails? I thought I’d seen the last of those when David Seaman retired.
Judging by the number of spectators at this year’s World Cup finals in France, not to mention the TV viewing figures, there are plenty of people who do enjoy watching the women’s game. There’s no denying the players are talented – and the men could certainly learn a thing or two from their on-pitch attitude – but that said, there’s still a massive gap in the quality of football played by the two genders.
Yes, they can score goals. Yes, they can cross the ball. Yes, they can run, dribble and nutmeg when the opportunity arises, but the physicality will never allow the women’s game to match that of the men. The pace will always be slower and that in itself results in a totally different ball game. Add lipstick and mascara to the equation (a certain Dutch number 7 springs to mind) and it’s easy to see why some football fans just can’t take the women’s game seriously.
Even those who promote women’s football have some reservations. It’s been suggested by Emma Hayes (manager of the Chelsea women’s team) that the size of the goal frame should be reduced in the women’s game. It’s a fair point. The height of the average female goalkeeper is much less than the average male. Perhaps the size of the actual playing surface should also be reduced. It’s something to consider, despite objections from both players and fans. Unsurprisingly, some female players are calling for equal pay, arguing that they deserve the same salaries as their male counterparts. It’s hard to agree when like it or not, the women’s game is still very much in the developmental stages and attracts nowhere near the same audience or sponsorship deals.
Despite my misgivings, I did watch some of the World Cup games. It was whilst I was watching England take on the USA in the semi-final that I came to a reluctant realization. My dislike of the women’s game had nothing to do with talent, strength or speed (or any apparent lack of it). I was jealous. What a revelation! Sadly, I had never been given the opportunity to play football. When I was at school, girls played netball, rounders and hockey. Boys played football, cricket and rugby. There was no crossover and there was no choice. By then, I was already a huge football fan and followed the men’s game with a passion. Women’s football was unheard of so any hope I may have had of playing was both unlikely and unrealistic. The few girls that did decide to kick a ball around after school were bullied or ridiculed.
Thankfully, the opportunities afforded to girls and women today are so much better than they were for my generation. In sport alone, the roles available now differ vastly to the meagre choices on offer when I left school. There was no such thing as a female referee. You would never see a female in the Match of the Day studio and you certainly wouldn’t see a women’s football team on the TV. It’s no wonder I’m jealous! Any one of these roles (and plenty more besides) would’ve been right up my street. Only now have I come to realize that the reason I don’t enjoy watching women’s football is not because I don’t admire the women’s game. It’s not because I think they’re inferior or untalented. It’s because I resent the fact that these women are able to play the sport they love and get paid for it. In short, I wish it was me!
Now I’ve come to this startling realization I shall, of course, continue to watch the women’s game. However, the fact still remains, in my opinion, that men’s football is more entertaining (the pure physical power involved will always ensure a faster, stronger game). So whilst I shall reserve my passionate support for my team in the English Premiership, I shall save a respectful admiration and healthy dose of envy for those playing the women’s game, ponytails and all.
Whilst I’m on the subject, congratulations to the USA on their World Cup win. It was, I suspect, never in doubt.< Back