Hi Ants, I hope you’re all getting into the festive spirit! In this release of Ants Weekly I’d like to discuss the emergence of women in football. Recently, there was a huge step forward in this area – the very first female Ballon D’or award. Proudly won by Lyon’s Norwegian striker, Ada Hegerberg, the 23 year old gave a rousing speech asking young girls to believe in themselves and acknowledging how critical in terms of progression this moment was for women’s football. However, this shining moment was not without a grey cloud. The host of this iconic award, Martin Solveig, then proceeded to ask Hegerberg if she could ‘twerk’. What an inexcusable way to tar such a historic occasion.
Was Luka Modrić asked to ‘twerk’ when being presented his award? Or even upon the commencement of the male’s award in 1956, was Stanley Matthews asked to do the Bop? Solveig’s actions were unprofessional and disrespectful to say the least. His conduct was exceptionally poor form and showed just how rampant our game still is with sexism. In light of this incident, more and more stories of women facing this issue have surfaced. Julia Guimareas, a Brazilian reporter, was forced to avoid the advances of a stranger while the cameras were rolling. Over the summer, Vicki Sparks became the first woman to ever commentate on a World Cup game in the UK; Jason Cundy, former Chelsea defender, decided that the female voice was “too high pitched” for this role.
For me, football is about inclusivity and community. There really is something special about being bonded for life with a total stranger just because you happened to be sat near each other at the game and hugged them as the ball rocketed into the back of the net. In my experiences, I’ve never seen something bring together people in such a unique manner and so it pains me to see any group of people feeling left out of the sport we all love.
Campaigns to include minority groups in football have brought us forward enormously but my concern is that the people at the top – the people with the power to make change – aren’t doing enough. Nicklas Bendtner was fined £80,000 by UEFA for showing his Paddy Power branded underwear in an attempt to market the Irish bookmakers. In comparison, Porto were fined £16,700 in 2012 for racism towards Italian striker, Mario Ballotelli. This, in my opinion, shows more willing to please sponsors than to promote equality and fairness.
While it is important to call out and condemn such negativity, it’s also crucial that we acknowledge any advancements. Visa have become the first ever sponsorship of women’s football, reaching an agreement with UEFA to hold the rights until 2025. This could signify a move towards reducing the gender pay gap. As it stands, the average pay in the Women’s Super League is £26,752 annually. In the Premier League, this average is over £2.6m, according to Birmingham Mail.
I do believe that public attitudes towards women in sport are changing for the good. While many social media accounts are chastising Solveig for his behaviour, others are doing their best to focus on her incredible achievements instead. The few defending Solveig are, in fact, few; they are the clear minority. I sincerely hope that we look back on this moment in years to come and see it as a pivotal milestone in the fight for equality.
If you’d like to weigh in on the debate, discuss another topic with me, or even just leave some feedback, I encourage you to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.*
*Content all writers own views and not necessarily views of Saint Anthony’s FC