One lakh tickets were sold Women’s World Cup It will run for exactly one month starting July 20 in Australia and New Zealand.
It is the most expensive of the still-nascent tournament – FIFA allocated $435 million to organize the tournament. The total prize money is an all-time high – $150 million, five times what two-time defending champions USA won in the previous edition – although it is only a third of the bounty won by Lionel Messi and co at the Men’s World Cup. FIFA believes it will be the biggest single sport for women ever.
It’s a moment of triumph – even though abuse, misogyny and inequality grip the sport around the world, and it’s still in the early stages of its evolutionary cycle, there’s still an underlying assumption that this is a token event, staged by FIFA out of fear of being branded reactionary in a progressive society (a kind of men’s World Cup winner). The best example is when the governing body distributes broadcasting rights as a bonus package).
It still lives in the shadow of the world’s most powerful and popular sporting empire – men’s football – but at least it doesn’t have to be played in the dark, in secret, away from public view, as it was for most of the last century. .
Women’s football, a non-match version of it, existed as early as the 17th century. A recorded women’s match occurred in 1881, when Scotland and England clashed, wearing corsets, heeled boots and bonnets in accordance with Victorian standards or morals.
This rise paralleled the feminist and suffragette movements in Europe and Great Britain. The insult was reflected in an article in Blackwood’s Edinburgh magazine entitled Modern Mannish Maidens: “The other day we heard of men and boys playing hockey in a certain locality in a lewd manner by ladies and gentlemen. After this, we should not be surprised if there are plans to start a ladies football club, as rumoured.
Still, they flourished and drew crowds to the ground, but Britain suspended it from 1915 to 1919 in the guise of war, but the real reason, football historians believed, was that they feared communists and suffragettes would pay the money collected from packed stadiums. The movements, which lasted for 50 years from 1921 to 1971, before it was outlawed, were deemed by the FA to be “completely unsuitable for and should not be encouraged in the game of football for women”.
France did the same in 1932, West Germany in 1955, Norway in 1931, and Brazil in 1941. The German Football Association’s logic of defense is the most vile: “This aggressive sport is completely alien to woman’s nature. In the fight for the ball, feminine grace disappears, body and soul are inevitably harmed … The display of the female body offends dignity and modesty.
Italy, an exception
Italy was an exception, and in 1970 the Turin-based Federation of Independent European Female Football (FIEFF) hosted an unofficial Women’s World Cup. It was the first of the so-called Mundialitos, or mini-World Cups, an invitational tournament in which a few countries competed for the trophy.
It would continue until the mid-1980s, when the football associations began to gradually lift the ban, although a drive to improve the sport had not yet taken hold. A law passed in the US in 1972, known as Title IX, greatly helped expand sports in the US: “No person in the United States shall be excluded from participation, on the basis of sex, denied the benefits of any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, or subjected to discrimination.”
Most importantly, it guarantees equal rights to federal financial aid. The USA is the most successful women’s soccer nation, four-time champions, and this is the main reason why they are chasing the hat-trick this time.
Finally, in 1988, FIFA warmed to the idea of a Women’s World Cup. As an experiment, in 1988 they hatched a women’s invitation card in China. It was a success, attended by thousands, and three years later, 61 years after the inaugural Men’s World Cup, the first Women’s World Cup was staged in China. But with trepidation.
It was called the World Championship for Women’s Soccer for the M&M’s Cup – the governing body cleverly dropped the FIFA-prefix to keep it from failing. In contrast, the USA beat Norway in the final in front of 65,000 spectators at Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou, where 75,000 people attended the final, which was not a huge success. Then-president Joao Havelange wrote, “Women’s football is now well and truly on its way.”
However, the environment was amateurish. There was no prize money (they didn’t have it until 2007), players were entitled to a $15 per day allowance, and the jerseys were surplus to the men’s team and were oversized.
Players from different countries were stacked on a plane – for example, the US team stopped in Oslo and Stockholm to pick up the Swedish and Norwegian teams. Some of them traveled by trains and boats.
Half a dozen players stayed at the bed and breakfast. The teams shared the kitchen, ate dinner, and had impromptu parties. Even the officials did not wear FIFA badges or stickers. But what hurt them the most was the length of the games, 80 minutes instead of 90. US captain April Henriques quipped: “The organizers are afraid that if we play 90 our ovaries will fall out.” Exactly, from the next edition, they started playing the whole 90 minutes.
The most iconic moment
But the most remarkable moment came when America’s Brandi Chastain converted the final penalty in a tense shootout against China in 1999 to win the World Cup. She celebrated by taking off her shirt to reveal a black sports bra as about 90,000 people watched at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl. It was one of the best photographs ever taken of a female athlete; A metaphorical moment of liberation for women’s football.
As the years passed, stars like Martha, dubbed the Pele in skirts, exploded, money poured in, and women’s football began to emerge from the shadow of the men’s, without its glamor or hype. The games are less physical, but smooth and without too many obstacles. A few cards are sealed, a sign of discipline and the spirit of the game.
Subsequently, financial investment, the professionalization of the game following the Women’s Super League makeover in 2018, and increased media attention have all contributed to its steady growth.
However, it is far from a complete institution. There is a disparity in pay for men and women – English players have threatened to boycott the tournament if there is no semblance of pay parity. There is a dearth of opportunities and exposure.
Only half of the 32 teams have professional players. Some countries, such as Canada, have suspended professional leagues.
For the past four years, some countries have only played friendlies. Zambia had 23 friendlies in a row. In South America, Brazil played 18 friendly matches in a row, while Colombia and Argentina played 16 matches.
But in recent years, widespread allegations of harassment around the world, often sexual, have caused more alarm. Cases have been reported in Haiti, Venezuela, Zambia, Argentina and Colombia in the past two years alone. Last year, an investigation into abuse and sexual misconduct in women’s soccer in the US produced a damning verdict.
“Our investigation revealed a league where abuse and misconduct — verbal and emotional abuse, sexual misconduct — spread across multiple teams, coaches and victims,” the report reads.
The concerns of women footballers are many, but each instance of success on the global stage is a victory, a glimmer of hope for an egalitarian world in the distance, another step towards burning deep-rooted patriarchal narratives and perspectives.