Why aren’t they equal?

By | February 9, 2015

In today’s world, the men’s soccer game heavily dominates. No matter where one goes, usually the most competitive leagues are men’s leagues. While it is not common for people to know hundreds of male soccer players, the same cannot be said for their female counterparts. I recently spoke to a friend of mine who gave me an in depth analysis of the Premier League, and in his analysis he mentioned players from all teams, their position on the pitch and even their nationality. When I asked that same friend to name 5 women’s players, he simply couldn’t. So why is this the case?

Many have argued that men’s soccer is more appealing, thus the reason why the world heavily concentrates on watching it and consequently ends up disregarding much of women’s soccer. Some say that given the superior physical strength that men biologically tend to have over women, the game becomes faster, more intense and therefore more entertaining. While men do tend to have greater physical abilities, this in turn leads to a game where individualism becomes a central part for many players and the idea of teamwork often gets lost to the fact that each player wants to shine and be the star of the team. Because women don’t have that same physical ability to the extent where they can greatly surpass their opponents, their game is much more focused on passing and teamwork, which for some, is much more entertaining to watch. Plus, women can get aggressive, just look at the picture below.

Others claim that with men’s soccer, one sees a higher level of skill and ability than with women. While there are a greater number of men’s players who can perform mind-boggling skills, there are also players such as Marta who can dazzle anyone with her skills. The video below is a great example of Marta’s abilities.

And, something that is also very true, is that women don’t tend to fake injuries or seek free-kicks as men do.

So why aren’t more people watching women’s games? For one, there is little money put into women’s soccer. This means that in terms of media and advertising, companies are guaranteed to get more viewers for their advertisements in men’s games than in women’s games. In addition, where I grew up in Latin America, if girls do happen to even play the sport, they are not given the same attention as boys, who at the age of 4 can already enroll in many soccer training camps of top-level clubs.

Two weeks ago when Carla Overbeck and Cindy Parlow visited our class, they spoke about the many challenges they faced to try to put the men and women’s teams at the same spectrum. One of the things they mentioned that struck me was the lack of health insurance when not traveling with the National team. Fortunately, much of this is changing, and they realized this change when playing the ’99 Women’s World Cup Final and seeing over 90,000 fans at Giants stadium.

What I don’t understand though is that over 70 years prior to that event, the Dick, Kerr Ladies in England were gathering massive crowds to watch their games. As the book In a League of their Own! by Gail J Newsham states,

“Undoubtedly the biggest crowed ever to attend a ladies football club match was the one played at Goodison Park, Everton on Boxing Day 1920. (…) Without the benefit of mobile phones, twitter, facebook, television and any media hype, it was without any gimmicks that an astonishing number of spectators turned up that day to watch women play football. (…) 53,000 spetators were packed into Goodison park, with between 10,000-14,000 unable to gain admission” (73).

While I won’t delve into the reasons why women’s soccer declined in popularity, I will just say that if that sort of hype was generated in the 1920s, it can easily be generated nowadays with the help of social media. It’s time to truly appreciate the talent that these ladies have.

4 thoughts on “Why aren’t they equal?

  1. Paige Newhouse

    Brian, I totally agree that social media could be a way to spread women’s soccer. 1999 was such a great year for women’s soccer – I wonder how social media would have affected the 1999 team?

    I was also intrigued by the crowds that the Dick, Kerr ladies attracted. What shocked me is that they had such a rich tradition, and it totally fell apart within a generation. I guess the question would be (for the US), how can we sustain the popularity of women’s soccer, i.e. keep up crowd numbers? And what role would social media play in that? So many leagues have started with the best of intentions and ended in failure.

    1. Brian Wolfson Post author

      That’s a very good point, Paige. I don’t know how to sustain — and/or improve — the popularity of women’s soccer (at least in the US), but I feel that in 2015 this should be much easier to achieve than in 1999 and even more compared to 1920. Social media for sure plays a role in spreading the popularity of the sport, but I believe that deep down there needs to be a shift in the media and its ideology, allowing them to realize that money CAN be made through women’s sports (after all, half of the world’s population are women and this opens up a huge market). If money goes towards women’s soccer games so that they end up being shown on ESPN instead of ESPN3 or ESPNW, then I’m sure women’s soccer will keep growing because people will have access to it and be able to watch it.

  2. Brigid Larkin

    One of the most interesting points brought up in class was whether or not Title IX applied to US Soccer. While the question of United States Soccer funding is still confusing to me, I was wondering if, having grown up in Brazil, you’ve seen similar financial strain worldwide? For that matter, do laws similar to Title IX exist in Brazil, or can federal funds be allocated as schools see fit? If qualifications like Title IX do not exist in other countries, that could be another explanation for the decline in popularity of women’s professional soccer. If women are less funded as children, their skillsets won’t be developed enough for professional soccer by the time they reach adulthood. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle.

    1. Brian Wolfson Post author

      I completely agree with your point Brigid. Unfortunately in Brazil, athletes don’t tend to go to university/college in order to then enter the professional world. This is due to the fact that there is zero funding in universities or colleges for sports (its mostly just IM), and so players have to join a privately owned club or be recruited by a team’s underage teams if they even hope of making it into the professional sphere (this is one of the benefits of the US, in that it is MUCH easier to become a pro athlete because of the amazing sporting facilities that universities have). With all these obstacles as it already is, women don’t get nearly as much attention as they should, and most clubs and/or teams don’t have a path for women to grow in terms of their skillsets. It’s a big problem, which again is rooted under the idea that soccer should mostly be left for men (which is where the vast majority of money is) and women should focus on other things.


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