Women’s football is in fashion, but it’s not a recent phenomenon

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In this summer of 2022, the continental qualifying tournaments from which the teams for the 2023 Women’s World Cup will play will be played. This sport has never been more popular, but there is still a way to go

Until recently, when we started a Google search on women’s soccer, the information was sparse and the images accompanying the text showed women in scantily clad poses that accentuated the features traditionally attributed to feminine sensuality.

Professor David Wood of Sheffield University reported on this in 2018 at the first meeting of the Research Network on Women’s Soccer in Latin America, held at the Soccer Museum at the mythical Pacaembu Stadium in São Paulo, Brazil. The central theme of this meeting was the general marginalization of the field. Four years later, the panorama is different in the region and in the world.

First of all, women’s football has become an agenda item in the traditional media. The final copies of the continental qualifying tournaments are currently being played, from which the teams will compete for the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in 2023.

Today on the portals of the main newspapers in the world we can read notes about the performance of the teams, with the names of the players. We can look at pictures of women fighting for possession, closing their bodies against an opponent, throwing themselves to dodge a target, replacing the old representation of the woman without movement and the object of the male gaze.

It should be noted, however, that despite the growth in representation, the gender gap between sports news remains huge.

The mass media play a central role in the visibility and market positioning of women’s football. If they commit to men’s sport to the detriment of women’s sport, they create a closed economic circle for athletes, who have more difficulty finding sponsors and investors.

On the other hand, it is not just a matter of financial support, which is so necessary for the development of the athletes’ careers. The underrepresentation shows the symbolic disdain the discipline has suffered over time. This issue leads to the formulation of questions such as: among whom do prestige and recognition circulate, who are the valued and valued people in our society and culture? No doubt male athletes have enjoyed this privilege.

Second, FIFA’s decision to support the growth and development of the discipline has been fundamental. The Women’s Football Development Program includes a set of goals to enable 211 member federations to access resources and specialized technical knowledge to advance discipline at the national level.

The objectives include organizing new competitions or strengthening existing ones, promoting the participation of girls and young people, awarding training grants for coaches and players, training in leadership, communication, marketing and management. As a result of the political decision to prioritize the discipline, the 2023 Women’s World Cup will bring together 32 teams for the first time.

On the other hand, going forward, FIFA aims to reach 60 million players worldwide by 2026.

It is important to note that behind the decisions of the governing body of football hides a history of practices and struggles that have not been well recognized. Women’s football is not a last-minute boom, nor was it born with the organization of the first FIFA World Cup in 1991.

Social research shows that women have been playing for more than a century and while there are specifics per country or region, there is a common denominator through the cases: gender inequality.

The early development in the United Kingdom, with the creation in 1895 of the first all-female team (the British Lady’s Football Club), and in Brazil, which records data on women’s teams that played in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in the early decades of the 20th century, was interrupted by the bans of 1921 and 1941, respectively.

But as the researcher Silvana Goellner has said on several occasions, the ban, based on the biological condition of women, did not mean the absence of the practice.

In light of the advancement of the demands of athletes and international feminist movements, the quest for equality today has a different caliber. And while it has been possible for certain sectors of power to act positively in pursuit of these claims, situations remain disparate.

While in some countries the demands are aimed at achieving greater economic gain and equal representation in decision-making positions, in others with less support, players are still vying for access to a decent playing field and even for something as precious and necessary as hydration.

In the United States, where soccer is a formative sport for girls, the women’s team, which has more wins to its name than its male counterpart, managed to match their salary in May this year.

In Spain, the premiums the women’s team received in all friendly and international tournaments were recently equalized against the men’s team. The country also has a record: the match played on March 30 between Barcelona and Real Madrid in Campo Nou, corresponding to the second leg of the quarter-finals of the Women’s Champions League, became the women’s football match with more spectators in the stadium, with 91,553 fans.

There is no doubt that women’s football has more spectators, improvements have been made in infrastructure and distribution, and it is gaining more and more attention, far from the images of objectified women, the silences and prohibitions of another era. However, the united and constant struggle to balance a field still marked by inequality remains essential.

This article was published in ‘The conversation‘.

Source: La Verdad

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