Sunday, June 23, 2024

The year of the World Cup: Women’s football reaches new heights and Spain shines | Women’s football

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IIn a year where the actions of disgraced former Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales and, more recently, Joey Barton’s sexist outrage dominated the headlines, we believe 2023 was a year of setbacks for women’s football and women in football. No wonder. But these and other incidents only seem more ridiculous when compared to the Women’s World Cup, which has captured hearts and generated the second-highest revenue of any global sporting event after the Men’s World Cup. is.

Ian Wright said this before the Euro 2022 final in his characteristically passionate and charming way: “You don’t have to worry about dinosaurs. I saw someone say something about dinosaurs screaming at meteorites. I love that – that’s what the negative people are for. Look at the millions of people who have watched them play. There are people out there who are looking forward to this game.”

good things

Are there people looking forward to this game? The Women’s World Cup final between England and Spain was watched by a peak audience of 12 million viewers on BBC One, and a further 3.9 million viewers on his website and app on iPlayer and BBC Sport. In Spain, RTVE’s main channel La 1 secured the highest number of viewers with 7.38 million viewers and viewership rating of 71.1%. Incredibly, 53.9 million people in China watched the 6-1 loss to England in the final group game, while 11.15 million people watched the semi-final loss to England in co-host Australia. Reached. Meanwhile, the total attendance for the 64 matches played across 10 stadiums in Australia and New Zealand was 1,978,274.

Fans gather at Sydney's Fan Park for the Matildas' 4-0 win over Canada in the group stage of the Women's World Cup.
The World Cup captured the hearts of Australian fans, including here at Sydney’s Fan Park, where the Matildas beat Canada 4-0 in the group stage. Photo: Kin-Wai Yuen/Sipa/Shutterstock

However, this number does not tell the whole story. That’s because it doesn’t reflect how far this tournament has penetrated the Australian consciousness in just over four weeks. It was the next level of indifference that fans encountered at the last tournament in France in 2019. At that moment, you felt as if you were part of a secret society, walking around the city unnoticed and making your way to the stadium where you thought the locals were. Relax for summer. In Australia, the host city hums to the tune of the tournament, street vendors ask about tickets, office workers add green and yellow scarves to their suits, taxi drivers gush about Sam Kerr’s hamstring, and advertising is everywhere. and products were on display.

And in the world of soccer, Spain led the way, fighting brilliantly to win their first senior international trophy against a backdrop of domestic turmoil that would put them in the spotlight after their victory. For Australia, Kerr’s stunning solo goal against England was cathartic, having been deprived of their talismanic forward for much of the campaign. The Lionesses scored a further two points with Kerr’s equalizer despite being without European Championship captain Leah Williamson, Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner Beth Mead and influential number 10 Fran Kirby. They defeated the hosts and advanced to their first World Cup final. .

Moroccan defender Nouhaila Benzina became the first woman to wear a hijab in a World Cup match where her debut team reached the last 16. And 18-year-old Colombian Linda Caicedo has made a remarkable mark on the world stage. Although she collapsed during practice, she scored the opening goal in a shock 2-1 win against Germany as her team advanced to the finals. In addition to Japan’s splendid performance until they were stopped by Sweden in the quarterfinals, a splendid game of soccer was played.

Morocco's Nohaira Benzina rises to the top spot in the Women's World Cup Group H match with a challenge against Park Eun-sung
Morocco’s Nouhairah Benzina emerges as the best in the Group H match against Park Eun Sung – Benzina becomes the first woman to wear a hijab at the World Cup. Photo: Sarah Reid/Getty Images

bad person

We will avoid arguments about “ugly people”, but the reality is that “bad people” and “ugly people” will be merged into one huge section, such as Rubiales, FIFA, and many others. national federations could be torn over how to treat their domestic teams and players. Around the tournament. But that doesn’t leave any room to talk about the “bad things” on the pitch…and there were plenty of them.

Germany were one of the favorites going into the tournament and it seemed inconceivable that they would not escape from the group that included Colombia, Morocco and South Korea. Things looked even more incredible after they started with a 6-0 win against Morocco. However, a loss to Colombia followed by a 1-1 draw with South Korea meant the Euro 2022 runners-up finished third in Group H. Despite signing a new contract earlier this year, coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg was sacked three months later. .

In the last 16, Sweden achieved another great success with a penalty shootout victory over four-time champions the United States. 2019 World Cup Golden Boot, Golden Ball and Ballon d’Or winner Megan Rapinoe missed the spot kick, which she described as a “dark comedy”. Her penalty was one of three missed by the USA in the shootout, and was her last as a team in a major tournament, as Rapinoe had announced her intention to retire beforehand. It became an action. In 2019, her World Cup ended in a tear as her two goals helped the United States defeat France and advance to the finals. It’s a similar story for Canada’s Christine Sinclair, the world’s most capped player, and Brazil’s Marta, two other great players in the game who were eliminated in the group stage at the last World Cup. Ta.

Megan Rapinoe reflects on US Women's World Cup loss
Megan Rapinoe reflected on America’s World Cup loss, saying the penalty miss in the penalty shootout loss to Sweden was the final kick of the tournament. Photo: Hannah McKay/Reuters


There was a lot of ugliness surrounding the Women’s World Cup, which made the tournament’s success all the more impressive. That was evident even before a ball was kicked, as the team protested over inequality, inequality, unpaid wages and poor conditions. In the run-up to the tournament, Canadian players threatened a strike over what they saw as discriminatory treatment, Zambia fought (and continues to fight) over unpaid wages and bonuses, and South African players faced unpaid bonuses. England’s players boycotted a pre-tournament friendly. Nigeria called in the Football Association after negotiations over performance-based bonuses broke down, threatening to boycott the first match of the tournament over non-payment of bonuses, and then discussing the circumstances of the campaign, which included having to share beds. did. Australian players called for prize money on par with the men’s World Cup.

There is no doubt that these issues hinder the team’s ability to perform at their best. Considering how impressive football has been despite these challenges, it shows that the sport’s development is far from reaching the pinnacle of providing players with everything they need, both materially and environmentally. There are positive points.

The pre-tournament armband debacle prompted FIFA to move to prevent teams from wearing OneLove bands designed to support the LGBTQ+ community. As rainbow armbands are outlawed and England plan to wear One Love replacements in Australia, 8 issues FIFA steps in to mitigate the planned impact and give countries a way around it We created an armband to support this.

Luis Rubiales
Luis Rubiales’ actions after Spain’s Women’s World Cup final victory ultimately resulted in a three-year ban from football. Photo: Mark Atkins/Getty Images,

Rubiales. Need I say more? The actions of the then RFEF president after Spain’s victory over England in the final overshadowed his team’s historic and heroic victory. He grabs his crotch during a celebration, kisses Jenni Hermoso on the lips, behaves inappropriately towards other players, and lifts Atenea del Castillo over his shoulders. The figure was shown. His actions reflected the macho culture that Spanish players have struggled with for decades. After decades of protests against team culture, including 15 players withdrawing from selection to protect their mental and physical health after being sent off from Euro 2022, Rubiales’ actions are believed and understood by players. The broadcast needed to be broadcast all over the world by then. It’s really terrible. On the positive side, Rubiales was banned from football for three years, coach Jorge Vilda was sacked, and the players realized their power.

lessons learned

There is no sign that progress at the World Cup, or the women’s game more broadly, is slowing down. By the time teams take to the pitch in 2027, the same prize money will be paid out as in the men’s tournament in 2026. FIFA now needs to ensure that some of the funds allocated to players actually reach them and are not withheld by the federations. We will also ensure that player voices are heard, that reporting mechanisms are strong at national and international level, and that education on what is and is not appropriate behavior takes place across football around the world. It is also necessary to guarantee that. I would also like to know where the World Cup will be held. We know where the Men’s World Cup will be held in 2026, 2030 and 2034. It is frankly a travesty that we are still waiting to hear who will host the 2027 Women’s World Cup.


If you have any questions or comments about the newsletter, please email moving.goalposts@theguardian.com.

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