The curtains have been drawn on this year’s edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and the event in France saw numerous gains achieved in Women’s football on a global level. In the spirit of advocacy, I launched the Slay-Ballers campaign to bring more awareness to women playing soccer particularly in the face of an ever-widening gender gap when compared to the men’s game.
France 2019 saw a clear upgrade in the hitherto low standard of women’s football. The quality of soccer on display by the ladies this summer in France has been remarkably high, so much that many people have forgotten that two big regional men’s events (the AFCON and Copa America) are taking place concurrently; such is the beauty, and entertainment that the football on show in France provides.
The rise in quality has invariably seen much-needed and much-deserved attention drawn to the Women’s game by both football fans globally as well as relevant authorities in the game.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino in the wake of the tournament has set out a five point plan to make sure football “seizes this opportunity after the best Women’s world cup ever in France”. He proposed to expand the event by changing the format, increasing the number of teams from 24 to 32 for the 2023 edition similar to the men’s version. He also plans to double a planned $500M investment in women’s football in the next four years and doubling the prize money to $60M from this year’s $30M amongst other things.
Our case is further boosted by a number of ladies shattering records transcending the gender divide. Brazil’s Formiga stepped onto the pitch in France to become the oldest player to ever feature in the tournament and the first person, man or woman to appear at seven world cup finals, two tournaments ahead of anyone in the men’s game with Mexico’s Antonio Carbajal and Rafael Marquez and Germany’s Lothar Matthaus all playing in five. This is in defiance to the widely-believed fact of longevity of men in sports as compared to women. Other record breakers include Cristianne who became the oldest player to score a hat-trick and Martha who is now the highest goal scorer in FIFA World Cup history. She has 17 goals, two more than her male compatriot Ronaldo.
Women football has indeed taken big steps forward this summer but we have to keep up the hard work so that the trend continues. The women’s game has attracted a large audience this year with stadium attendance soaring high and matches being graced by celebrities. The semifinal between England and the USWNT attracted 11.7 million viewers, the highest peak television audience of the year so far. These are proofs that women’s football is going in the right direction.
Football has traditionally been seen as a man’s sports but the ladies are staking a strong claim here and shortening the gap. We know we still have quite a long way to go but we believe that every action we take is like a drop of water in the larger ocean of change. In the words of Rose Reilly, a former Scottish footballer in the 1970’s: “The comparison from when I started playing football and the ladies’ football of today is like night and day”. The change might not be spontaneous but gradual and we look forward to a day whereby female football will be like dawn of the day. This might not be for now but for generations to come.
The Slay-Ballers Campaign is an eye opener for the girl-child all over the world to see women across all race and continent performing great as footballers; thus igniting their puissance to live their own dream. We believe that soccer is also for women and they can excel well in it. We see champions competing against champions in a world that limits success delusively to physiological classification. We fight for girls to realize their potential across the world. Our message is simple; if these amazing ladies can become superstars, you can too, irrespective of your gender.
We know that the awareness for female football is low from the media to individuals. That is why the Slay Ballers campaign is ensuring that the awareness becomes better. Finally, if you are a girl or boy aspiring greatness in your chosen field, you are a maven; don’t stop until the world recognizes you as one. Slay till you become the stuff of legends.
Photo Credit: FIFA.com