Sport Football Stop pretending: let’s get real about women’s sport

Stop pretending: let’s get real about women’s sport

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So you’ve enjoyed watching the Matildas at the World Cup.

You’ve seen how exciting women’s football is. You feel proud, deeply proud of what the Australian team has achieved over the past three weeks.

You’ve watched them tame the “group of death”, take it right up to the USA, defeat Nigeria and draw with Sweden.

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You’ve cheered them through to the round of 16, gone into orbit after the win over Brazil (the first win by an Australian senior football team in a World Cup knockout game), and flung yourself out of bed on a Sunday morning to see them take on defending champions Japan in a quarter-final.

Now what are you going to do about it?

It’s not enough to say you’re proud.

Just 2,671 people turned up for the W-League Grand Final in Perth. Photo: Getty
Just 2671 people turned up for the W-League Grand Final in Perth. Photo: Getty

We’re all proud but we have to do more for women’s football to grow in this country. We have to do more for the sake of our daughters.

Act on how you feel about the Matildas.

Start taking your daughters (and sons) to W-League games.

You’ve seen the potential in this national side after just six months together. Take an interest in where they’ve come from and where they developed their sublime skills.

Matildas midfielder Elise Kellond-Knight is right. Imagine how good they’ll be in another four years?

Get noisy about the lack of coverage of women’s football in this country.

For a sport to prosper it has to be visible.

Sadly, the ABC decided to stop broadcasting the W-League after the most recent round of federal budget cuts. Once again women’s sport is the sacrificial lamb.

Call out sexism when you hear it.

It usually contains one or all of the following – women’s sport is boring, women athletes aren’t strong enough, skilful enough, fast enough or entertaining enough.

The people with these views need to dust the cobwebs from their thinking and wake up to the realities of sport today.

Take a look at Amy Poehler’s response to Sports Illustrated analyst Andy Benoit’s tweets about women’s sport this past week. That should get you in the mood.

And stop comparing women’s sport with men’s sport. It’s such a tired, stupid, boring and pointless argument. How about we recognise and celebrate the differences between men and women’s sport instead? Both have a whole lot to offer and should be valued and respected equally.

Let’s turn the Matildas bandwagon into something else. Something compelling. Something sustainable. Something that will inspire girls and give them another sporting option.

Canberra players celebrate qualifying for last year's W-League Grand Final. Photo: Getty
Canberra players celebrate qualifying for last year’s W-League Grand Final. Photo: Getty

Sport is about more than shiny gold medals. Sport is about creating a healthier society – both mentally and physically. Strong role models have an important role to play in achieving this.

For too long sport has been defined by men and for men in Australia.

The opportunities, facilities, pathways and the will to change the grossly lopsided landscape just haven’t been there. And we wonder why girls drop out of sport in their teenage years?

Girls deserve a clear pathway, not one with potholes and ill-informed attitudes.

It’s not a pipedream. Last November a record crowd of 46,000 turned out at Wembley to watch the English women’s football team take on Germany in a friendly.

Momentum from the London Olympics played a large part in making this happen.

There’s been a shift in the national consciousness. Their women footballers and cricketers are seen in a new light – they command new respect and they’re building a new audience.

It’s not surprising the Lionesses have made it through to their first World Cup semi-final.

There’s no reason why a shift in the national consciousness can’t happen here.

But a spike in interest every four years won’t do it.

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