Women are silent no more: men must share World Cup spotlight

July 8, 2019

 

Alex Morgan is one of football's finest ambassadors and was named in TIME 100's Most Influential People in 2019.  Photo credit: Sports Illustrated 

 

If you listen closely, you can almost hear the frantic click-clacking of keyboards in news outlets around the world.

 

Even as the 2019 Women’s World Cup played out its final act – the coronation of the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) as four-time champions after their 2-0 victory against the valiant Dutch Lionesses, analysis and debate is set to rage on.  

 

Indeed, the main challenge facing any editor penning a summary piece is to do sufficient justice to a tournament whose ripples have been felt far and wide.

 

In commercial terms, there is no questioning its growing success.

 

Viewership records have already been set this year at club and international level, with England’s recent 2-1 loss to the US reeling in 11.7 million viewers in the UK alone – making it the nation’s most watched television programme in 2019.

 

 

Big corporates have similarly been drawn to the women’s game and the likes of Budweiser (England sponsors), Commerzbank (Germany) and Fox (US) have all lent their financial backing to the World Cup.  

 

Certainly, the past month of international football in France cannot be disentangled from a wider social and political context - not least with perennial protagonists and defending champions the United States at the heart of a gutsy multi-faceted challenge against the status quo.

 

A war of words with US President Donald Trump that is set to deepen in intrigue as Megan Rapinoe and co. look poised to decline his invitation to the White House (McDonald’s, anyone?), an ongoing dispute in Norway and Sweden over the gender pay gap, an unabashed ‘tea drinking’ celebration have propelled the women’s football to the forefront of news coverage and set the tone for healthy discussion – a rarity for sportswomen. 

 

Donald Trump often shoehorns his political agenda and forced patriotism into sports events - the Women's World Cup is no exception. 

Source: Twitter 

 

Across the pond, a surge in participation in the UK, with an influx of interest from girls in light of the World Cup will come as assuring news for European women’s football on a whole, which typically finds itself playing catch-up with the States in something of a role reversal.  

 

The chauvinistic attitudes behind unreceptiveness towards women’s football are refreshingly less prevalent in younger generations, with boys donning not just the jerseys of Cristiano Ronaldo and Kylian Mbappe, but also that of Alex Morgan and Sam Kerr.

 

Incidentally, Morgan was one of two footballers to be included in TIME Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2019 alongside her male counterpart Mohamed Salah – in part for her work in campaigning for more funds to pave the way for girls to follow in her footsteps.  

 

 

Australia's golden girl Sam Kerr gives away her jersey to an eager Matildas fan.

Photo credit: Yahoo Sport Australia 

 

YouTube trends are a less tangible metric, but nonetheless indicate a willingness among video editors to source and delve into hours of match footage to produce compilations of the likes of Dutch starlet Lieke Martens and Brazilian legend Marta.

 

While the USWNT’s reign as world champions continues, it has taken an international effort to catalyse a global cultural shift and spark an undercurrent of change where women’s sports are beginning to be appreciated in their own right – and long may it continue.

 

 

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