The Coming of Age of Women’s Football
Posted: Mon, 25 Jan 2016 13:51
"Somewhere behind the athlete you've become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back … play for her." – Mia Hamm
On Sunday morning, July 5, 2015, one of the most beautiful cities in the world prepared to host the final match of the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup. It is an event that has brought Vancouver, British Columbia one more time to Center Stage in the global world of sport.
On that day, a golden haze from wildfires in the Northwest blanketed the Canadian Province of British Columbia and Vancouver. Probably, it was a reminder of the drought-laden US Women's National Team (USWNT) which had not won a World Cup Championship in 16-years. However, during the 90 minutes of play and strong finish that gave them a winning score of 5-2, the USWNT ended that drought within the boundaries of the football pitch, with a record third World Cup triumph. The seven goals scored made it the highest-scoring final in the history of the competition.
The win also drew an enthusiastic response from US President Barack Obama, who tweeted his congratulations to the victors: "What a win for Team USA! Great game @CarliLloyd! Your country is so proud of all of you. Come visit the White House with the World Cup soon."
Ahead of the final of the Women's World Cup Canada 2015, the sixth FIFA Women's Football Symposium took place, bringing together hundreds of representatives from the 209 member associations to focus on women's football and the role of women in football.
FIFA is working very hard to promote the sport among females before the 2019 Women's World Cup in France with its "Live Your Goals" (http://www.fifa.com/womens-football/live-your-goals/index.html) campaign that aims to increase the number of girls and women playing football worldwide. The football governing body has launched the first edition of its Female Leadership Development Program – an initiative that will provide support to women across the globe who are looking to become future leaders in football.
The program is part of the commitment to the ten key development principles for women's football and follows on from the inaugural FIFA Women's Football and Leadership Conference held in March 2015. At that event experts from football, business and wider circle of society discussed ways to improve the representation of women in leadership.
Two blocks away from BC Place in the Andy Livingstone Park a very interesting event took place, which was saturated with many small football pitches. It was the venue for the final leg of the Vancouver International Soccer Festival (http://www.oneteamunited.ca/festival.php), where co-ed teams were competing against each other. The view of female and male footballers playing on the same team was very impressive and heartwarming.
After the matches, the players were hanging out together, and talking in harmony about upcoming games in the tournament. With 11 players, football undoubtedly has a tremendous potential to set perfectly inclusive competitions for all genders. The number 11 is not only an odd number, but large enough to provide unbiased accommodation to many, who love to play football.
Why was this event so special? This final match of the 2015 Women's World Cup has been recognised for its magnificence, fair play, and nail-biting soccer: the best of the beautiful game anyone could wish for. It was also an opportunity to observe where we, as a global society, are on the question of the sport's global development regarding the level playing field and international gender politics. The world was not watching 22 females kicking a ball; instead, the world was watching 22 athletes who wanted to win the match and the trophy of their dreams for their teams and for their countries.
Not for a moment was their effort perceived as being related to gender. The 53,341 spectators were deeply drawn into the match. With the overwhelming number of red-white-and-blue spectators, mostly young girls and their parents, much anticipation and hope rode high on the players' shoulders. Perhaps, intangibly speaking, these athletes pointed out to the world the direction and future development of global football.
Female athletes from all over the world have earned a well-deserved place in global sports through their passion and dedication. The beautiful game might also be a unique avenue for a different and new type of social, if not global, inclusion and equality for sport. It seems like (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mia_Hamm) Mia Hamm's statement could come to realisation in the near future for many female footballers in the coming of age of women's football.
Leszek Sibilski is Professor of Sociology at Montgomery College, Maryland, USA