On Friday 7th I went to a football match with my best friend. We watched the England-Italy match at Vale Park, as the Stoke City-Liverpool match had sold out quickly. The main difference: it was England Women-Italy Women.
I confess that when I first walked into the stadium and saw the women’s teams warming up I felt a rush of emotions, starting with shock and ending with pride. I had not imagined that we would be watching women’s football, and international women’s football at that, but was eager to discover how the “Lionesses” would match up to my hazy knowledge of their male counterparts. On top of that, I was interested in discovering the main differences between men’s football and women’s football, although my comparison is not unlike that between apples and oranges, since I am only familiar with Portuguese male football teams.
The match started strong; England dominated from the start, with Jordan Nobbs revealing herself as the most deserving of player of the match. The first half was rife with English goal opportunities, although they did not actually score until the second half – a goal soon reciprocated by Italy. The most eventful occurrence in the first half of the match was the injury of Alice Parisi, an Italian player. Sadly, it looked serious, being suspected as a broken leg. The outcome of the match was slightly disappointing for both sides but the atmosphere in the stands was anything but – there was a real sense of unity and pride among fans.
During the match, I found myself frequently commenting on the drive and determination of both teams with my best friend. We agreed that the match was overall much more fluid than any men’s football match we’d seen, with the most famous male teams and leagues being full of stops and starts, players often falling over when the opportunity arises in order to stall the game when they wish to keep their advantage or prevent the opponents from gaining it. Truth be told, that technique, which I only remember truly gaining unspoken popularity in men’s football a few years ago, has started to wear thin and severely impacts the quality of the game and the league as a whole. I believe that this technique is more rarely seen in women’s football because of the stigma against women in professional sport and their subsequent need to prove their value to local and international societies.
Women’s sports are not given as much media coverage as men’s sports, in large part due to the everlasting stigma against women in the sports deemed primarily “male” – e.g. football, rugby, cricket. This in turn is motive for them to feel the need to prove themselves in the world of professional sport, to be taken seriously and secure sponsorship to enable them to continue playing their sport professionally. Often, like in the game that I watched, the quality of the women’s team surpasses that of the men’s, which is saddening in that the women’s team does not and will most likely not get as much recognition in the foreseeable future as the men’s equivalent simply because of their gender and the obsolete ideas of society against women being on the same level as men when it comes to professional sport.
It just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by its cover; women have a much more reduced role in professional sports than men do. That does not necessarily mean that women are worse than their male counterparts, just that they still do not get as much recognition or coverage for their achievements as men do. This is just a slice of an issue that must be addressed as soon as possible, in order to motivate and encourage women and girls to pursue their dreams and show that we can do anything and everything, no matter what other people say.
Izi Bella x