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.