Oh hey, did you catch Japan’s win over Netherlands in the Football World Cup?
Before you scramble to think if it has indeed been four years since 2014, let me confirm that we are still in 2015.
Confused? Well, given the attention (or lack thereof) Women’s Football gets, it’s not surprising that the majority of people, even major football fans, are unaware that there’s knockout stages of a football World Cup going on in Canada right now- the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Today, when the most prevalent ‘F-word’ is probably Feminism and everything’s about equality between sexes, one of the (literal) fields where women substantially lag behind men is football. Mind you, they lag behind not in terms of skill or perseverance but rather in terms of opportunities available and media attention. Though the issues plaguing the game are vast and multi-layered, here are some of the major obstacles women footballers face while pursuing their passion for the beautiful game:
1. Wage Gap:
There is a considerable gap between the wages of men and women footballers. Did you know, for instance, that the five consecutive times winner of the FIFA Women’s player of the year, the Brazilian striker Marta only gets paid (3000 GBP) a fraction of what a good EPL player gets (135,000 GBP)? Let’s not even make comparisons with the four-times Ballon D’Or winner Leo Messi.
The England women’s team recently complained to the FA for their low salaries during the previous world cup- they were apparently paid just 40 GBP per day. This leaves them in a lurch and they often have to juggle other jobs with playing football. Many female footballers also give up on the sport due to financial instability. It’s a shame, considering that many women’s national teams are doing much better than their male counterparts.
2. Lack of Media Attention:
The very fact that practically no one even knows that Women’s Football World Cup is a thing happening right now is proof enough of the fact that no one wants to care about it. Before you go and take a ‘But this is India and no one cares about football, period’ stand, let me present you with some startling facts from countries where football is the major sport.
Georgiana Turner, a sports journalist, found out that there are only 303 articles about women’s football in The Guardian’s archive running back till 1998. In a vivid contrast, Alex Ferguson has about 184 all to himself. The most watched women’s sports event ever had viewership of less than a million people during the 1999 Women’s World Cup, while the men’s games clock in millions of viewers year after year.
In fact, most female players agree on the fact that it’s not the wage gap that worries them more; it’s the lack of fans coming to watch the games and how less their matches are aired on television. It’s their belief that if media supports women’s football more, it will translate into better wages, better sponsors and more appreciation for their game.
When EA Sports released FIFA 16 with the new feature of women’s teams, the flood of disgusting sexist comments that flooded the social media were sickening. This and the kind of sexist comments and behaviour that female football professionals- players, referees, other staff- have to go through everyday should probably make everyone claiming Feminism to be a passé issue sit back and rethink their stance.
A recent survey conducted by ‘Women in Football’ revealed that an astonishing 28 per cent of respondents have witnessed female employees being treated unfairly. More worryingly, more than 50 per cent of people surveyed believed their looks to be of greater importance than their ability to do their jobs.
Ever wondered why there aren’t many female football referees? Because they’re greeted to lewd comments by spectators and players alike. There was an entire time a few years ago when Chelsea’s first-team doctor, Eva Carneiro, grabbed attention all over the world through comments on her looks and scepticism on her skills. It’s problematic on so many levels that what she gets to hear isn’t “She must be damn good at her job to be here despite all the obstacles” but rather “Hey, show us your vagina”, thus hyper-sexualising the presence of women in a game that already shuns them.
It’s not just professionals either. Try being a female football fan and you can experience most of it on a first-hand basis. As someone who has been an ardent football fan since 2008 and has been involved with all things football on the social media, I can attest to the fact that female football fans are never taken very seriously in discussions and are assumed to be in it either for the attractive players (which, very honestly, is so untrue because A) we only get to see indistinguishable specks of the so-called attractive players while watching a match which kinda defeats the purpose and B) get over yourself, not a lot of them are as aesthetically pleasing as you’d believe) or for the sake of attention from fellow male fans (which is laughable because no one would be stupid enough to invest time, efforts and emotions in a game for the sake of a person especially if the only reason they give them the time of day is because they like football). It’s after having answered questions about the offside rule and formations that I could argue a stance on discussion boards and be taken seriously, something that disturbs me to no end.
It’s not just women. Football has deep-rooted issues with almost all minority communities. Issues of homophobia, sexism and racism mar the world’s most popular sport. On the occasion of 2015 Women’s World Cup, let’s strive to make football a welcome place for women!
Featured Image: Indian women’s football team, zeenews.india.com