Women's football, time to perform under the spotlight

The 2015 World Cup has given the players a chance to impress the ever-growing audience and fans.

    Japan won the 2011 World Cup after beating the US on penalties [AP]
    Japan won the 2011 World Cup after beating the US on penalties [AP]

    Canada 2015 is the most excited I've been about a women's football world cup.

    In my job, it's about the story.

    But this time the backstory, the equality, standard and the progress of the women's game, might need to take a back seat.

    Because this time it shouldn't be about analysing women playing football. It should be about who wins and loses, about national pride and about entertainment.

    Canada 2015 is the big opportunity for women's football to take it to the next level. It won't be the last and it is not make or break. But what a window the game has for a month starting on Saturday.

    The timing is perfect. There is Copa America later this month. But even with Messi and Neymar doing their thing in Chile, there’s is more than enough room and time to watch the women's world cup and park the comparisons.

    The standard is good, real good as they say in that part of the world. And therefore the narrative can be about who is beating who, not who has the ability to play.

    Over half the target of one and a half million tickets had been sold by mid-May - an indication of the pulling power the game now has and the work it still needs to do.

    And as I've said before, that work needs to be an invitation not an order. Nobody should be told they must like or follow women's football.

    Room for improvement

    There are still issues with the league standard in my own county England, for example. It needs honest assessment. There’s definitely room for improvement. And I don't want to see more of the pompous and misguided TV coverage that apes the men's coverage. Don't follow their mistakes. Be different, be fresh, be bold, have personality and don't be a mumbler going through the motions.

    But the standard in the World Cup will surprise a few cynics and doubters. Did you see the 2011 final? It was an absolute thriller in which Japan beat the USA on penalties. And it was technically brilliant too.

    I've been encouraged by the build-up on social media. Many players are using Twitter in a positive way.

    The Canadian squad was announced on a social media via the players themselves. Names need to be made, personalities need to be explored. It's important that Panini stickers, which are right back in vogue, are being sold in many regions for this tournament.

    Perhaps, if we're honest, the biggest indicator of progress has been negative headlines.

    In England, Manchester City's Toni Duggan was heavily criticised by her club's fans for posing with United manager Louis Van Gaal. It shows she is important enough for them to care. And at times the American goal-keeper Hope Solo has hardly had the safe hands of a keeper. She was recently suspended for a month for getting into a car with husband who drove 'under the influence'.

    Seizing the opportunity

    The media has a responsibility to nurture the game. I don't mean forcing the issue, there is nothing worse in this field than male executives introducing lame women's sport 'projects'. I know who they are and their levels of barely-concealed misogyny over many years.

    I mean the media seizing the opportunity for covering something that can matter to people. Should football fans in England want to know if the women's team beat France? Hell yeah.

    And it's a fantastic that all games here can be accessed live through the BBC. Television deals throughout Europe, US and in qualifiers Australia, for example, have been encouraging.

    This is all a welcome breath of fresh air for FIFA of course. After the turbulent years they have had, what better than a vibrant, exciting women's World Cup to remind people what the organisation should actually represent? A sport it has helped grow and flourish.

    Interesting to think the women's World Cup has only existed for 24 years and was the idea of the much maligned Joao Havelange. People don't want to ever see a positive side to FIFA - but if players should be blessed with good balance, so should the media.

    Twenty-three nations will have joined Canada for 2015 tournament and not many squads would have had grand airport send-offs but when they come back it might be a different story. For some this will be life changing.

    For the women's game - this this their time to shine in the spotlight.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera



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