Tag Archives: Eugenie Le Sommer

Who will be the Queens of Europe? 

A year after Euro 2016 the men’s European Football Championship the women’s equivalent Euro 2017 starts in Holland this Sunday. Reflecting the growth in women’s football this is the biggest women’s Euros in history with sixteen countries participating. To think only twelve years ago in 2005 only eight teams participated in the Euros. In 2009 the tournament expanded to twelve teams and now in 2017 there are now sixteen teams. 

This will improve the tournament as sixteen teams means that the group stage has been made simpler. No more third place finishers qualifying without winning a game (like Portugal did in the men’s Euros last year) and no more needing slide rules and calculators to work out which third placed teams go through or which first placed teams the third place teams play. Just nice and simple. 

So with that said what might happen in the tournament? One fascinating thing about the draw is it has thrown up five matches between near neighbours which if nothing else might give the tournament extra publicity. So let’s take a look at the groups.

Group A – Holland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium – In men’s football it is often said that the host nation has an easy draw. This does not apply to the women. Hosts Holland are in a group that involves three of the top eight European teams in the FIFA world rankings. The Dutch team like their men boast a squad that is mainly scattered across Europe including four Arsenal players -Sari van Veenenvdaal, Danielle van den donk, Dominique Jansen and new signing – and the teams star player – Vivienne Miedena. Their problems include the loss of Manon Melissa to retirement since the last World Cup and can they cope with the pressure of being hosts? Women’s football as we all know does not get the same publicity as the men’s game which can make it harder when players who are not used to hype and publicity suddenly have to cope with it. 

And it is by no means certain that Holland will even get out of the group. This is not because they are a bad team – quite the opposite – it is the quality of the opposition. First of all there is 2013 Finalists Norway who include arguably the best striker in the world Ada Hegerberg. her sister Andrine, the excellent Caroline Graham Hansen – who they badly missed at the last World Cup – plus captain Maren Mjelde. One worry for Norway is that Ada Hegerberg laboured through the Champions League Final in June and did not look fit. They will hope she is back to her best but they are always competitive in the Euros and will be so again. 

So will their neighbours Denmark. They won’t be able to get to the Semi Finals without winning a game again – the benefit of not having third placed teams qualifying – but with star strikers Pernile Harder and Nadia Nadim and a history of punching above their weight in the Euros means they cannot be underestimated. Neither can first time finalists Belgium. During qualifying they became the first team in eight years to avoid defeat away to England in a competitive game and also drew with neighbours Holland in qualification for the last World Cup. Realistically I cannot see the “Red Flames” qualifying from the group. I can see them taking a point from at least one game – and whatever team that is could miss out on the next stage as a result….

Predicted Qualifiers – Norway, Holland.

Group B – Germany, Sweden, Italy, Russia – In contrast to Group A this group on paper looks clear cut for Germany and Sweden. Germany are the powerhouse of European women’s football and have won the title six times in a row. In 2013 people predicted France, England. Sweden or Norway might end their dominance but none of them did. Thy might have needed two penalty saves from the excellent Nadine Angerer to win the title but they still did. They were not expected to win the Olympics last year either – but they did. For the first time in a decade the Frau Bundesliga did not provide a Champions League semi finalist but omminously for the rest of Europe the last time that happened Germany won the World Cup without conceding a goal. Again (like 2013) key players – in this case Simone Ladehr and Melanie Leopulz – are injured and they have a new coach in Steffi Jones who has been in the job for less than a year. And yet…they have excellent players like Dzenifer Marozsan, Anja Mittag and Tabea Kemme. More important they are used to winning. Anything less than the Final is unthinkable and the title is highly likely.

What Sweden will turn up in Holland? Will it be the team that flopped horribly in the World Cup two years ago or the superbly organised team that won the silver medal in the Olympics last year? My money is on the latter. Under veteran coach Pia Sundhage they will be well organised and have one of the best keepers in the tournament Hedvig Landhal, an experienced defender in Nilla Fischer and experienced players Caroline Seager, Kosovare Asllani and Lotta Schelin. I hope Sweden make use of young striker Stima Blackstenius who will be a star. Could be between them and their Norwegian neighbours for a Semi Final spot. 

The other two teams in this group are examples of former powers in the women’s game trying to get back into prominence. Italy were in the first World Cup in 1991 which had only twelve teams but have not qualified for a World Cup since 1999. They were runners up in the Euros in 1997 but have platued at the Quarter Final stage ever since. Russia – the only Eastern European team in the finals in contrast to both the men’s game and the high number of elite women tennis players from Eastern Europe – reached the Quarter Finals of the 2003 World Cup but have failed to qualify for a World Cup since. Both – but especially Italy – might be on the way back up but I doubt either knock out Germany or Sweden. 

Predicted Qualifiers – Germany, Sweden.

Group C – France, Iceland, Austria, Switzerland – In my post on the 2015 World Cup I compared France to the South Africa men’s cricket team calling them talented chokers who never win anything. This year South Africa have failed to win a major tournament yet again. Will France finally win? A lot of people think so but not me. Yes they have magnificent players – captain Wendie Renard, Amandine Henry, Camille Abily and Eugenie Le Sommer for example – but they have had these players before. They still have an appalling chance conversation rate and unless or until they get a better striker than Marie-Laure Delie they won’t be winning anything. Some people think the fact they won the She Believes Cup in the US changes things but they were only impressive against the rebuilding host nation which in the context of this tournament is irrelevant. Against European teams they needed two late goals to beat England and would have lost to Germany but for a missed penalty. That is not a sign of dominance. They will hope to play England though – England have not beaten France since 1974 (!!) 

France should win the group so the interest will be who qualifies with them. One of the candidates is that remarkable little country Iceland who caused mayhem at the men’s Euro 2016 knocking out England on the way to the last eight. But the men were only following the trail blazed by the women in 2013 where they shocked Holland en route to the last eight. They will be contenders again but three players have gone down with the dreaded anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury which is for some reason a blight on the women’s game and their top scorer in qualifying gave birth to a child in March. 

All that could leave a small country vulnerable to either of the debutants in the group the near neighbours Switzerland and Austria. Switzerland have the advantage of being the only one of the debutants to have played in a major tournament before – the last World Cup – and although they slightly underachieved in Canada they will be better off for that experience. Also they have star players Lara Dickenmann, Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic. But their neighbours Austria can not be underestimated either. Although they are debutants fourteen of their twenty three strong squad play in the Frau Bundesliga the best league in Europe. Frankly you can make a case for any of these three teams to ride shotgun behind France but my marginal favourites to do so are Switzerland.

Predicted Qualifiers – France, Switzerland. 

Group D – England, Scotland, Spain, Portugal – This is the British group. England after their magnificent World Cup are for the first time considered among the favourites to win the whole thing. Can they cope with the hype? Coach Mark Sampson named his squad on April 3 – far earlier than he had to. For comparison most of the other teams announced their squads either in late June or early July. It is either very brilliant or very stupid and I suspect that it will come back to haunt him if the team does not do well. My worry is against the very best teams and sometimes even against poor teams (like the two laboured 1-0 wins over Bosnia and Herzegovina in qualifying) the team struggle to score. There are a lot of good in fact very good players available but not the one great player like Kelly Smith used to be. I’d personally have picked Eni Aluko for her pace. I reckon semi finals, maybe the Final – but not the title. 

And England need to hit the ground running. For their first game they have the absolute classic banana skin in Scotland. England should win especially as tragically the brilliant Kim Little – a player so good that four different Americans tweeted to me that not only would she get into their mighty World Cup winning team but she would be their best player – is injured (that damn ACL again). Wether she could have done for Scotland what Gareth Bale did for Wales’ men last year sadly will be a question without an answer. But Scotland are not a one woman team and have players like Manchester City’s top scorer Jane Ross, Lisa Evans who plays for Bayern Munich and Liverpool star Caroline Weir. And they will be up for the first game against England – which makes that match dangerous for England. Scotland’s men are notorious for qualifying for big tournaments but not getting out of the group stage. Can the women change that? Difficult but not impossible.

But this group also contains the dark horses for this tournament (every tournament has one). In the past I have called Spain the sleeping giants of women’s football based on the success of the country in youth tournaments and the talented women that feminist sports writer Jennifer Doyle saw in Barcelona in 2011 – when Spain did not qualify for the World Cup. Doyle said these women play football in the tiki taka style of Barcelona’s men – and we all know how successful they have been. Well there are signs that if the giant is not awake yet it is stirring. The stirring began when a player revolt after the last World Cup finally got rid of coach Ignacio Quereda – who had coached them for 27 years but apparently had treated players awfully. This was a sign that the FA there were finally taking the women’s game seriously as are Barcelona who reached the Champions League Semi Finals for the first time. This team could be dangerous. It is not impossible that they either repeat their win over England from 2013 which could force England into a quarter final against France (see above for why that is NOT good news for England) or that they upset France in the last eight. Watch out for Spain.

To balance the presence of dark horses Spain the group also has the weakest team on paper Portugal who are ranked only 38 by FIFA and 23 by UEFA. They certainly were not expected to finish second in their group above Finland who were in the last three Euros but they did. They still had to go through a play off against Romania to qualify which they did on the away goals rule after extra time. They will be regarded as underdogs but they have a couple of players well known to followers of the WSL here in the UK – ex Chelsea player Ana Borges and ex Liverpool player Amanda da Costa. Could be out of their depth but they have nothing to lose. They had never finished higher than fourth in a Euros qualifying group and they are obviously an improving team. Do not underestimate….

Predicted Qualifiers – England, Spain.

So if I have got that right – very unlikely – that means a last eight line up of Germany v Holland, Norway v Sweden, France v Spain and England v Switzerland. I would predict wins for Germany, Norway (just.That game is a coin toss), England and Spain. Looking at the draw that leads to Germany v Spain and England v Norway. I would further predict a win for Germany and – Norway(another coin toss). I would say Germany are favourites to win but a case can be made for either England, Norway or Sweden to be Finalists. Spain are the dark horses while France (again) could underachieve. 

My wish for this tournament is like in 2015 is that the UK press behaves itself. The sexism was less in 2015 probably because England did well but it was still there. I will also be interested to see how the press in Scotland cover the event as it is the first time the Scotland team has played in a major tournament. Women’s football has little or no coverage in Scotland and shamefully the men’s BetFred (League) Cup starts tonight. A bit of arrogant selfishness from the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) who should be ashamed of themselves for threatening the best chance the women’s game has ever had to gain publicity here. 

I have also seen rumours that the event might be threatened by terrorists. Please God no. Let’s just hope the event passes off peacefully and it is another step on the road to the acceptance of women’s football in Europe. 

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Shame on sexist Eurosport UK

Two Champions League finals this week. The men’s Final is on Saturday between the two Madrid clubs Real and Atletico. But I’m going to concentrate on the women’s Champions League Final which will be played tomorrow in Reggio Emilia in Italy.*

Unlike the men’s Final which most people outside Madrid will agree does not feature the two best teams in Europe (most neutrals would have liked to see Bayern Munich managed by Manchester City bound Pep Guadiola play his old club Barcelona) the women’s Final features the two best teams Wolfsburg and Lyon (the only club that might have challenged this – Frau Bundesliga Champions Bayern Munich – were sensationally knocked out in the first round by Dutch club FC Twente). Since that event it seemed that only the draw could stop Wolfsburg and Lyon and the two clubs showed their superiority by crushing holders Frankfurt (4-0) and 2015 runners up PSG (7-0) respectively in the Semi Final first leg thus guaranteeing a Final place.

The talent in these teams is awesome. For Lyon : Ada Hegerberg, Eugenie Le Sommer, Amandine Henry, Wendie Renard…for Wolfsburg Lara Dickenmann, Ramona Bachmann, Alex Popp, Theresa Wullaert. And that is just some of the names. Sadly one of the best players of the lot Caroline Graham Hansen is injured again but even so there is enough talent on the field to excite any fan of football not just women’s football.

So what could happen? Heart says Lyon. There is a resemblance to Barcelona in their attacking talent and the way they steamroller minnows. Lotta Schelin, Hegerberg and Le Sommer are women’s football ‘s answer to Messi, Neymar and Suarez- a footballing “Murderer’s Row” of strikers who score ridiculous numbers of goals and scare the opposition witless. But… Lyon like Barcelona don’t dominate as much as the talent should suggest. Since 2008-09 Barcelona and Lyon have “only” won three and two Champions League respectively. Now that is hardly failure but even so… The reason I think Lyon don’t completely dominate the Champions League is the same reason France have not win an international honour. The French players – the core of the team – are talented chokers who miss a lot of chances. This is OK in the French League were Lyon are miles ahead of everyone but not against teams from the Frau Bundesliga which is the best league in Europe.

And that is why the head says Wolfsburg. Because if Lyon miss chances Wolfsburg have the quality – Bachmann, Popp, Wullaert – to punish a Lyon defence which is not used to being tested. Key player for Lyon is Hegerberg who scored 33 League goals this season (the second top scorer scored only 15). She is a far better finisher than the French players. If Wolfsburg stop Hegerberg a third Champions League win in four seasons is very much on the cards. And I’m going with my head on this one…

But there is a problem. If you want to see the match on UK television forget it. It is not live on UK TV**. That is unbelievable and ridiculous but true. The rights to the Champions League are with Eurosport. Now I’m certain that Eurosport International are showing the match to other countries but Eurosport UK are showing French Open tennis instead. On both their channels! That is just ridiculous. What makes it even more of a joke is that Eurosport UK showed first and second round and quarter final matches but not the Semi Finals or the Final. What other tournament is treated like this?

The UK government should intervene. Eurosport UK must be taken off air at once and replaced with Eurosport International. Long term when the men’s Champions League contract comes up UEFA must insist that any station that covers the men’s Champions League must cover the women’s too. It might cost them money – for example Sky in the UK are so sexist they probably won’t bid for the men’s Champions League in that scenario. But if UEFA cares about women’s football sacrifices have to be made. Also the likes of Manchester United should be told that if they don’t start a women’s team they are out of the Champions League until they do.

The fact that in 2016 the women’s Champions League Final is not on UK TV is embarrassing. Heads must roll. And it must never happen again.

*Since the Women’s Champions League began in 2009-10 (before that it was called the UEFA Women’s Cup) the Final has been played in or near the city that hosts the men’s Final. As the men’s Final is in Milan this year’s is being played near the men’s host city rather than in it.

**Former UK Prime Minister Harold MacMillan was once asked what he feared most and  replied “Events dear boy. Events”. Well events have overtaken this post. Eurosport UK have announced today(May 26th) that the Women’s Champions League Final is being shown live after all. I stand by the rest of what I wrote though. The Women’s Champions League should be included in a “package deal” with the men’s when the contract for the latter comes up for renewal.

 

For women’s football to suceed the culture of UK football must change

So the Women’s World Cup has been going on for a week – and predictably the dinosaurs have come out of hiding. The worst comment has come from Marconi Aureilo Cunha head of women’s football development at the Brazilian FA who thinks make up and shorter shorts is the key to growing women’s football. Its obvious this twit would vote for Sepp Blatter in a FIFA Presidential election. God knows what Marta – the best player in the world – thinks of that. If I were her I’d have done a Diego Costa quit Brazil and qualify to play for a country that treats female footballers with more respect.

That would not be the UK. A friend of mine – who has never seen a women’s game – thinks you could pick eleven men off the electoral register at random and they would beat the eleven best women. And when Oliver Holt wrote a sympathetic article on women’s football in the Mail on Sunday the comments were horrific. They were complaints that women’s football was being rammed down people’s throats by the BBC (and here is me thinking TV sets have remote controls so you can easily get away from anything you don’t want to watch. I don’t like golf. Guess what? I choose not to watch it!) But I suspect it is partly the culture of male football in the UK that makes it hard for women’s football to be accepted here.

The perception of women’s football in the UK is that with the ball at their feet women can be as skilful as men but the game lacks pace and power. I should say I am not saying that is true. The skill bit is. Anyone who has seen goals by Eugenie Le Sommer, Maren Mjelde and Daniela Montoya – among others at this World Cup  – will agree with Jean Williams when she writes (in “A Game for Rough Girls?” page 121) that “Girls and women are clearly physically able to execute the skills”. That makes football different from say baseball where I don’t think women can hit 400 foot home runs or throw 95 mph fastballs. But it doesn’t matter if the perception is true or not. That is what people think about women’s football (even the players themselves think this).

That would not be a problem for women’s football if football fans liked skill. But in my opinion UK football culture does not think skill is as important as pace power and tackling and that is why women’s football struggles to gain public acceptance. There are plenty examples of this attitude. In the 1970s skilful players were called “fanny merchants” by fans. Note the reference to female anatomy. Glenn Hoddle – one of the most skilful players English football has produced was nicknamed “Glenda” by the UK press because he didn’t tackle and run about like an idiot. Again note the female reference. And this continues to this day. Andy Gray – in the second most ludicrous thing he ever said – kept saying about Lionel Messi – a candidate for the greatest footballer of all time – “Could he do it on a cold rainy night at Stoke?”. He said this because Stoke at the time were the most physical team in the Premier League (they have refined their style since then).  The implication being that small skilful players can’t cope with the physicality of English football. Only a culture that holds skill in contempt would even dream of asking that question.

More examples of this culture come from German football writer/broadcaster Raphael Honigstein. In his book “Englisher Fussball” he writes that “during a Sunday kickabout in England you get tackled to bits” and that English players “steam into each bone crunching challenge with a happy sense of abandon”. Yet no one would say German football was soft and even a German was horrified  by the physicality of our game.

And the fact that Lee Cattermole gets employment in the Premier League sums up the UK football culture. Cattermole is a physical player who loves to tackle. He got 14 bookings in the Premier League in the season just finished. But as the Daily Telegraph put it in March 2014 “He struggles with the ball at his feet”. Yes you have read it right. A guy who struggles with the ball at his feet earns a living playing football (the clue is in the name of the sport). There are a lot of women in Canada who don’t struggle with the ball at their feet and yet earn less than this nonentity who in my opinion would not gain employment as a footballer in any other country in Europe. I should stress that tackling and power have a place in football but surely if you win the ball in a tackle you should be able to know what to do with it.

This football mentality is also in my opinion why England’s men have failed to win a major international event since 1966. And it explains one of the fundamental reasons why women’s football is not accepted here (there are plenty of others). But if a sport is perceived to be skilful in a culture that doses not regard skill as highly as pace power and tackling it will struggle to gain acceptance. Until the whole culture of UK football changes women’s football will always struggle to gain the recognition it deserves. And even for those who don’t care about women’s football there should be a motive for getting rid of the likes of Lee Cattermole and prioritising skill over physicality. It might give England’s men a chance of winning something again…

Sport is still rife with sexism

A couple of months ago I was watching TV when there was a knock on the door. I answered it and a friend came in. He noticed that I was watching a women’s tennis match involving Canadian Eugenie Bouchard and he said the following:

“You can’t like watching this crap! The only reason you’re watching it is to look at her legs!”

I don’t know how I didn’t lose my temper. At first I was angry that he thought I was so shallow as to be only watching Bouchard to look at her legs. He knew me. He must have known I wasn’t like that. But then when I had calmed down I realised it wasn’t me he was insulting but Ms Bouchard. And here’s why:

Although she hasn’t played as well this year Bouchard is a player who aged 21 has reached a Wimbledon Final and two other Grand Slam Semi Finals. She is ranked six in the world. In other words she plays tennis better than 99 per cent of the human beings on this planet. And yet this guy thought the only reason she was worth watching was because of her legs!

The reason I suddenly thought of this incident was it was an example of the sexism that still pervades sport. And recently there were two spectacular examples of sexism in sport.

One came in Italian football. The President of the country’s amateur football association Felice Belloli is alleged to have said when asked about funding for women’s football  “That’s enough, we can’t always talk about giving money to this bunch of lesbians”. He denied saying that but a woman offical said she was at that meeting and that he did make the remark. To no ones surprise he is still in post.

The other example is closer to home. On the 14th of May the women’s editor of the Daily Telegraph Emma Barnett wrote an article about women’s sport. The next week she received the most ridiculous letter I have ever seen It was written on pink paper by a person who did not reveal their name. The letter said:

No one wants to watch women’s sport love, its a joke, pony tails swaying, tits bouncing, come on get serious. Put ’em back in the kitchen where they belong and leave sport to the warriors of the species not the dykes.

As UK journalist Richard Littlejohn would say “You couldn’t make it up!’

While it is true that sport is by no means the only place you see sexism in the unique thing about sport is that the sexism generally does not come from male participants. They are exceptions to this – French tennis player Jo-Wilfred Tsonga made sexist remarks about female tennis players and footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic made sexist remarks about female footballers after the Swedish press asked him if  the best female player in Sweden Lotta Schelin was as good as him – cases of sexism by elite sportsmen are rare. Generally they respect their female colleagues. Most of the sexism in sport comes from journalists, officials like Richard Scudamore and Sepp Blatter or fans like my friend or whoever wrote that letter to Emma Barnett. And to my mind that makes the sexism worse.

While it is wrong for Tsonga and Ibrahimovic to make the remarks they did at least they are elite sportsmen. The likes of Blatter, Scudamore and what World Soccer magazine (April 2005 issue) called “intransigent, cynical, beer-swilling blokes plonked in front of Sky at four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon” would not last five minutes against elite female footballers. So why on earth do they make sexist remarks about people who play football better than they ever could? Same with my friend who made that remark about Bouchard. Why do people think they can get away with deogratory remarks about people who do the job better than they do?

Next month sees the Women’s Football World Cup in Canada. For some reason women’s football attracts more press and public odium than any other female sport (even women who play other traditional male sports like cricket boxing and rugby don’t get attacked as much). One thing that can be predicted with depressing certainty. There will be a lot of sexism at this tournament. And the really annoying part of that will be that the vast majority of that sexism will come from armchair critics who will be incapable of producing football anywhere near the quality the likes of Alex Morgan, Marta, Lotta Schelin, Eugenie Le Sommer, Vero Boquete, Lara Dickenmann,Toni Duggan, Nadine Angerer and the brilliant Dezenifer Marozan – to name but a few – will produce. And that proves that not only is sport rife with sexism, the sexism in sport is more nasty than in any other field.

For at least in other fields (politics to give one example) a lot of sexism is done by other politicians. Which doesn’t make it right but at least means the people who are doing it are good at the job. Where as in sport I would love to see the sexist journalists, officials and fans who spout this rubbish take on elite sportswomen on the field. They wouldn’t last five minutes. It would be very funny. And it might shut them up!

Why Syed is talking a load of rubbish

Last week the UK sports journalist Matthew Syed wrote an article in “the Times” where he said sportswomen don’t deserve equal pay with men. He rightly took a lot of stick for that, but he also said something else. While writing about black athletes being banned from playing with/against whites he said “women have never faced such bans”.
Oh dear. Syed doesn’t know the history of sport does he? In fact women are treated worse than blacks in sport. Once blacks proved they could play with whites they weren’t banned. But there are examples – which I will write about below – of cases where girls/women matched or outperformed boys/men. In every case the sport establishment responded by banning them.
Case 1 was in swimming. In 1922 Sybil Bauer broke the world record in the 440-yard breaststroke. The men’s world record that is. She didn’t just break it, she took four seconds off it. Understandably, as the fastest 440-yard breaststroker on the planet she wanted to compete against the men at the 1924 Olympic Games. Surprise, surprise she was not allowed to, the establishment saying that the segregation of the sexes had “ages of precedent behind it”. Using that logic, nothing would ever change. Bauer won gold in the women’s race and died, aged 23, in 1927. The press called her a “mermaid” implying she was a freak.
Case 2 was in baseball. Teenage pitcher Jackie Mitchell signed a contract with the AA Chattanooga Lookouts. The team’s owner. Joe Engel. announced he would play her in an exhibition game against the Yankees. On April 2 1931 she struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The response? She was pulled from the game. And a few days later baseball commissioner Keneshaw Mountain Landis banned her from AA on the basis that baseball was “too strenuous for a woman”. A cynic might say it was because she had dared to embarrass two of the sport’s superstars but surely not. The press in its usual sexist way produced the headline “Her curves confused the mighty Babe”.
The next case is shooting. Olympic shooting had been mixed since 1968 but no woman had won a medal until American Margaret Murdock won silver in 1976. Actually she tied with US team-mate Lanny Basham but the judges for some reason gave Basham the gold. Perhaps it was a coincidence but most shooting events became gendered in 1984 with only a couple of open events left. In 1992 a woman – Zhang Shan of China – won gold in an open event – and from 1996 all Olympic shooting events were either male or female. Funny how they didn’t become gender segregated until women started winning medals…
Now two examples from the English FA’s “Hall of Shame”. In 1978 a 12-year-old girl Theresa Bennett was picked on merit for a hitherto all-boys team. The FA banned her, but a court ordered them to let her play. The FA appealed and the Appeal Court sided with them. Yes the FA really did go to court to stop a 12-year-old girl from playing football. They couldn’t sink any lower could they?
Oh yes they could. In 1999 an Employment Appeals Tribunal said the FA had discriminated against coach Vanessa Hardwick by refusing her the Advanced Coaching Licence. Hardwick’s legal team discovered that eight men had passed the course despite having lower grades than Hardwick, and five men had passed with the same grade. The FA had been caught red-handed but worse was to follow. They preferred to pay a £10,000 fine rather than give her the licence she had earned. Incredible.
Some people would say “Yes but things have changed”. Really? While it is true a 2014 Theresa Bennett would be allowed to “play with the boys” being “allowed” is not the same as being “welcomed”. I’ve spotted interviews with three elite female players – Kelly Smith and Dunia Susi (England) and Eugenie Le Sommer (France) where they stated they weren’t exactly made welcome in boys teams to put it no stronger than that. And Marta, reckoned to be the world’s best female player, was banned from a boys team for being too good. Jennifer Doyle summed it up “The shitty thing for girl footballers world over is that you can get away with playing on boys teams – as long as you don’t offer them any competition. The minute you do, they want you off the pitch”. Pathetic, isn’t it?
And for adult women, it is the same. Since 2004, footballer Maribel Dominguez, skier Lindsey Vonn and cricketer Sarah Taylor all either wanted to, or in the case of Taylor, thought of playing against men. The first two were banned from doing so, and Taylor got such sexist abuse from the UK press she backed away from the idea. That wouldn’t happen to a black.
And even when women have the choice it is a spurious one. A woman can’t play in the English Premier League, but she could manage a team, or referee a game. But first the football establishment – a club or the FA – would have to appoint her. Secondly it would take a very brave woman to volunteer to cop 90 minutes of sexist abuse every week. And that would happen. And here’s the proof. Chelsea have a female first-team doctor, Eva Carniero who has a MSc in sport and exercise medicine which proves she is qualified to do her job. When Chelsea played at Manchester City recently she had a sexist song sung at her by City’s fans. To no one’s surprise no one has been punished for this. After all it adds to the atmosphere – and is that not what the Premier League is lacking?
All this proves is that Syed is talking a load of rubbish. Yes blacks in sport have been treated shamefully. But women were – and still are – treated far worse. And don’t get me started on homophobia…