Sexism Is Ruining The Women’s World Cup

Brandi Chastain after scoring the winning girl in the Women's World Cup final, 1999.

Brandi Chastain after scoring the winning goal in the Women’s World Cup final, 1999.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup takes place this summer but is sexism casting a shadow over the tournament? Leo Jay Shire explores the challenges female footballers are up against. 

I’ve been to one football match in my life. It was the 2004 FA Women’s Cup Final at Loftus Road. My team won. I loved it, despite attendance being 17% of the size of the men’s FA Cup Final that same year. It was inspiring and, as captain of the A-Team of my primary school’s female football team (we had one match. We won), it has stuck with me as one of the most exciting and empowering events I’ve been to. Because football is a great sport. The FIFA Women’s World Cup takes place this year in Canada and runs from 6th June to 7th July, yet it seems the biggest match the sportswomen will face this year is the ongoing one against misogyny in football. Here are some of their biggest battles:

Apps

source: wikipedia

Lianne Sanderson. source: wikipedia

According to this PBS article, there is no standalone official app for the women’s world cup. When sports app are currently more popular than social networking apps, news apps and photo apps, it seems like a massive gap in foresight that an official app for the Women’s World Cup doesn’t exist. FIFA allege that the reason for this is that the FIFA U20 World Cup, previously known as the FIFA World Youth Championship, is currently going on in New Zealand, tweeting ‘U20s finishes 20/6, then app content will grow too’.

Turf

source: wikimedia

source: wikimedia

This is the first time a World Cup has been played on turf.

The lush green grounds at the Women’s World Cup stadiums are not down to plush green grass. They’re actually made from recycled tires. Why is this a problem?  Well, falling and sliding on synthetic turf hurts and is likely to cause more damage than grass would. What’s more, synthetic turf heats up a lot more than grass does. During the opening match, turf temperature was an incredibly high 49 degrees celsius, just one degree lower than what is considered ‘unsafe for sustained athletic use’. Last year, leading players in the game filed a lawsuit against FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association over the use of turf in the World Cup.  This is the first time a World Cup has been played on turf.

Money

Karen Bardsley

Karen Bardsley. source: wikimedia

Female footballers are, relatively speaking, cheap. The England women’s football players on a central contract earn £20k a year for their efforts. This is an increase from the low wage of £16k they were earning before, which had players complaining that they needed part-time jobs on the side. This article puts it into perspective when it highlights that England captain Casey Stoney made as much money in a year as former England captain John Terry did in a day. And this isn’t because women are worse at football. The women’s England team is actually ranked higher by FIFA than the men’s team in their respective tournaments. A problem not limited to England, the cheapest ticket available for purchase for the Women’s World Cup came in at $16 (roughly £10) while for the World Cup even the cheapest ticket would set you back $90 (roughly £58).

FIFA Game

source: flickr.com

source: flickr.com

For the first time since the games inception in 1993, FIFA will include women in its line-up.

EA Sports simulated football game series FIFA, so-named because it has the official stamp of approval from FIFA itself, has just realised that female footballers exist. For the first time since the games inception in 1993, it will include women in its line-up. Let’s be clear, the first ever Women’s World Cup was in 1991. Women in the World Cup pre-date the FIFA football game, yet their first appearance in it comes 21 years after its initial release. To put this into perspective, EA Sports, in collaboration with FIFA, has been ignoring that women exist for longer than I’ve been alive.

Even the freaking name

Eniola Aluko. source: wikimedia

Eniola Aluko. source: wikimedia

Have you ever noticed that there is no such thing as the Men’s World Cup? There is the FIFA World Cup, an international event where nations put forward their best football players and compete against other nations around the world, and the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which follows exactly the same format but with women. It’s times like this I wish there was an actual ‘women’s world’ so we wouldn’t suffer so heavily from eyestrain caused by rolling our eyes at men who persistently make themselves the centre of everything.

Have you ever noticed that there is no such thing as the Men’s World Cup?

Seriously, it’s 2015. Yes, perhaps women on the national team have some catching up to do when it comes to being as popular as their male counterparts after the FA literally banned women from playing football for half a century, but external forces aren’t exactly helping to make up for that.  We need to be watching and cheering for these women, and appreciating how hard they work to entertain us. This is not limited to the England team but needs to extend to all of the underappreciated players in the Women’s World Cup. They are some of the best football players on Earth, it’s about time we started acting like it.

Are you watching the World Cup this year? Who are you supporting? Let us know: @rifemag

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