I have been a football fan ever since the 2014 FIFA Men’s World Cup. This year, for the first time, I have been watching the Women’s World Cup. It’s not that I haven’t previously wanted to, but the last time a Women’s World Cup was broadcasted in South Africa was 2011.
This year is the first time the South African women’s national team, Banyana Banyana, has ever qualified for the Women’s World Cup. Here are some things I have learnt from watching the tournament so far:
The Speed of the Game
Critics can be quick to describe the women’s game as too slow. With many teams, this is far from what I have observed. I personally think the USA Women’s National Team is as good as Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City team! The only criticism I have is that there should be more investment in players for women’s teams.
The market is there. Nike recently reported that the USA’s women’s shirts sell better than any other sports shirts. I had absolute chills when I saw the same company’s advert before the World Cup. It was the first time I had ever seen a sports advert with so many powerful women in it.
There are also people who say that tickets don’t sell in the women’s game. One million tickets for the 2019 tournament have been sold. Organizers have admitted that they may have miscalculated and should have used bigger stadiums.
There is a huge pay gap between men and women
Like in many other industries and sports, there is pay inequality between male and female footballers. The prize money for the Men’s World Cup was 38 million dollars. The winners of this year’s women’s tournament will receive 4 million dollars. For someone who loves the beautiful game, this is disappointing. The USA Women’s Team are currently legally challenging their federation against discrimination and demanding to be paid their worth.
The Biggest Positives
What I like most about the women’s game is that it is not overly commercialized – as yet. The footballers are really playing for the love of the game. Women like Brazilian legend Marta, and possible player of the tournament – America’s Megan Rapinoe – are inspiring millions of girls AND boys all over the globe. There are so many female footballers whose voices and stories are not heard as they should be.
The Biggest Let Down
What has frustrated me most about this World Cup has been the refereeing. Many have seemed inexperienced, especially in interpreting the highly complex and controversial Video Assistant Referee (VAR). I hope FIFA and football associations around the world give these women the opportunity to do more refereeing and gain more experience. Why not have female referees for men’s games as well?
Le Grande Finale
The FIFA Women’s World Cup Final takes place on Sunday 7 July 2019. It’s going be a big one. Defending world champions the USA are up against current European champions the Netherlands. I am incredibly excited, and I hope you will be watching too!