If you’re not already off your nut on warm lager celebrating the biggest sporting event of the year, then you’re missing a trick. This week saw the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and over the next month, 24 teams will compete in cities across France to be declared the best in the world. Last time, England lost out in a heartbreaking extra-time own goal, losing 2-1 to Japan in the semi-final, but this year, with a new manager and more investment than ever, the Lionesses are gunning for a win.
While the men’s World Cup has got to be the most covered sporting tournament in the world – from supermarkets using the event to make you buy ketchup, or banks pretending they care about camaraderie to sell you savings accounts – the women’s counterpart often gets forgotten. Despite a huge rise in popularity, an unprecedented amount of investment in the Women’s Super League and coverage on the BBC this month, we’re still miles off the two competitions feeling equal.
Of course, a lot of this has to do with money, and how women were banned from playing on club grounds for 50 years in the UK (as well as many other countries). While women’s football catches up, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re not being a dick the summer it comes home.
FOR THE ACTUAL LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT SAY, “AREN’T THERE THREE MORE YEARS UNTIL THE NEXT WORLD CUP????” *PUZZLED LOOK*
When someone says, “Are you watching the World Cup game this evening?”/”What are you doing for the World Cup on Tuesday?”/”I would like to live my entire existence as just an extended World Cup match,” do not turn around and act confused. Do not correct them and say that actually, the World Cup was last year and that, actually (your forehead wrinkles, sweat starts to drip), they happen every four years, so actually, there can’t be a World Cup this year.
The World Cup is this year. In three years, you’ll get one with a bunch of blokes running around instead. They are both, a World Cup.
GET AS SHIT-FACED AND EXCITED AS YOU WOULD FOR THE MEN’S WORLD CUP
I would say at least 78 percent of people watching the World Cup don’t actually care about football. It’s not really the assists that draw them to the event; the red cards or the substitutions; it’s the collective enjoyment, that vague sense of community you feel when standing around a TV in the sun, cold pint in hand, surrounded by your mates. In this neoliberal society, where the individual is placed above everything else, and cities, Tinder, and those M&S meals-for-one make you feel alone to your very core, what better way to make human connection than by watching sport together?
RALLY YOUR OFFICE AROUND IT
Look. There is literally no better time of the year in an office than during the World Cup. Suddenly, a stuffy room of people you don’t really like becomes a vibey pit of TV-watching, sweepstakes and early exits to the pub. Everyone is just...happy? Suddenly, you’re chatting to people you’ve never spoken before about that Beth Mead goal and you’re actually enjoying the convo. Look at you! Chucking in stats you remembered from that BBC Sports article, rather than desperately trying to round the chat off with an, “um, well, yeah! Cool! See ya”.
This year, you’ve got the chance to recreate the huge office energy of last year’s World Cup, and legitimately do less work than you’re paid to. Do a sweepstake. Leave early for England matches. The time to legitimately skive is upon us.
ACTUALLY WATCH THE GAMES
Welcome to: the bar is incredibly low for men. A novel, by me.
BE ABLE TO NAME SOME OF THE SQUAD
I know numerous men (yes, plural) who can – and I am being completely serious – tell me the name of every brand of boot worn by the '98 England squad. Boot. And yet, naming three Lioness players is too much of an ask for some. If you don’t really care about football – fine, just familiarise yourselves with the big hitters (Sam Kerr for Australia, for example, or Lucy Bronze for England). However, if winning the Champion’s League is almost as thrilling as sex, and you can reel off transfer theories like the names of your children, then read up on the women players. Your brain clearly has the spongey absorbance to take in anything ball sport-related, time to use it usefully.
DO NOT SAY, “I DON’T KNOW, I GUESS I JUST DON’T FIND IT AS INTERESTING AS THE MEN’S GAME”
The success of a sport usually, if not always, has to do with money. In the late 19th century, women’s football was a huge deal, with many matches attracting more fans than the men’s games. When Dick Kerr’s Ladies, a team based in Preston, played against St Helen’s Ladies on Boxing Day in 1920, they drew a crowd of 53,000 supporters. As a comparison, the highest attendance of an Everton men’s game this season was 39,400 people.
Then in 1921, the FA banned women from playing at men’s clubs. According to the organisation, the game was “quite unsuitable for females,” thus effectively eradicating the sport. After 50 years, the ban was lifted and women were allowed to play again in the UK.
The game has grown since then, but there is still a huge pay disparity. Not enough funding is put into the game, with some international women’s team’s playing on barely adequate training facilities. On an individual level, women football players are paid significantly less than their male counterparts: the best player in the world, Ada Hegerberg, is currently refusing to play for her national team, Norway, over a pay dispute, while the US women’s team are taking their employers to court over this discrepancy, despite being miles better than the men’s team.
Considering the lack of money and coverage that has been put into women’s football, it's no wonder you feel more accustomed to watching sweaty men run around a pitch. However, liking men’s football more than women’s is sexism, plain and simple. It’s the same goddamn game. Don’t tell me it’s less interesting.