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With the large following of the Women’s Euros and the growing media presence of Women’s football following the successes of the 2015 World Cup, women’s football is beginning to gain worldwide recognition and respect. Women’s football is currently trending on twitter on a regular basis and this, amidst the excitement of the UEFA Women’s Euros has had me thinking about the wider values that are showcased through sport.
As a female athlete myself I have seen first hand the different recognition that is given to men and women and ever since a young age have been made to think that I could never be as good or as skilful as a male athlete in my sport. There is nothing to say a woman cannot be as tactical or as skilful as a male player but there continuously seems to be this separation of men’s and women’s sports as totally different entities. Jessica Ennis-Hill has always been my sporting inspiration, just as others are inspired by the likes of England captain Steph Houghton or the #Lionesses, for many boys Ronaldo or Messi are of course some of the biggest inspirations. These sporting figures and inspirations to many however do not receive equal recognition for their talents, which they’re so admired for. These inequalities have been highlighted and debated in the media in the run up to and during the Euro’s. The wage gap in football for example highlights this; Steph Houghton’s yearly earnings are less than Wayne Rooney’s weekly salary, yet they are both England captains and significant individual club players. These figures set the standards and more importantly imply that female sports and sportswomen themselves are of ‘less value’. The values that we set in professional sports are ones that young children aspire to and results in the belief that girls can’t possibly be as good as boys.
This poses the question of why there needs to be a label that separates men’s football from women’s at all? There has become this need to clarify that it is “the women’s football” on TV rather than just football (naturally the men’s game). The use of these phrases make sense when talking about the Women’s Euros or the Men’s world cup as these events are played on separate occasions, but our aim should be to reach a point where we don’t have to use “women’s sport” as a separate term. Of course steps are being made to make professional sport more equal and to grant similar air times to men’s and women’s sport, but these trends aren’t going to change overnight.
Female football in England has had a turbulent history that is often forgotten today and it is no wonder that the female game has only just started becoming successful again following the banning of it by the FA in 1921. If you haven’t seen the Channel 4 documentary “When football banned Women” it is a great place to start and really should not be missed! Following the ban on women’s football by the FA in1921 however the female game does seem to be progressing and the sport is becoming increasingly popular.
There should be no limits to what someone can aspire to achieve and we encourage our girls to have BIG aspirations. One of our emerging Girls United slogans is “We play like girls” because being a girl in football is nothing to be ashamed about, it is instead something to be celebrated! We hope that the use of ‘women’ as a term in sport can start to disappear and that sports players should all be respected in their own right.
Who knows in a few years perhaps the Football World cup – men’s and women’s tournaments – will be played and broadcasted at the same place, at the same time and on the same channel! For us this movement starts here in Bacalar and we hope that our aims and our mission will begin to spread worldwide.