You might have heard otherwise, but when the World Cup rolls up, women are assured of representation.
There are the Hello magazine spreads with professional photos of mummy, daddy and the kids. A piece entitled “England’s Hottest WAGS” will appear in at least three of the English tabloids before kick off, and possibly a couple of the proper papers if there are pullouts to be filled. Lurid details of trysts in travel taverns usually emerge prior to kick off too, in case any of our players need destabilising. And if you’ve never met a footballer but still want to participate, you can get down to the stadium, drape yourself in a flag and hang about near the guy in the photographer’s tabard. Next thing you know, you’ll be featured in photo agency Getty’s “Hottest Fans At the World Cup” photo post; an actual thing described by Buzzfeed’s Matthew Champion as a tweet originally scheduled for posting in 1974.
I see a tweet that Getty scheduled for the 1974 World Cup has finally gone live https://t.co/VARW1wTAm9
— Matthew Champion (@matthewchampion) June 26, 2018
He has a point. While women have been heavily involved in all aspects of football for years, representation has been confined to the above scenarios, with every serious attempt at a woman breaking through having been repelled because football isn’t obliged to welcome anyone who doesn’t conform to the “white male ex-pro” standard. This has left the game embarrassingly underprepared for a backlash it never saw coming.
The Getty tweet could have drifted through social media channels without much agitation as recently as last year. But football isn’t as impervious to change as some would like to believe and cultural events over the last 12 months have helped to amplify women’s voices to the point where they can no longer be suppressed with the “it’s just a bit of fun, love, if you don’t like it get back in the kitchen” pillow.
11 years on from Jacqui Oatley’s first commentary game on Match of the Day, some people, both male and female, are still complaining that women shouldn’t commentate on football because their voices are wrong. Patrice Evra is still smarting from the backlash he received for applauding Eni Aluko’s summarising last week. Football will not stop making these missteps and we can look forward to many more before the World Cup is over.
As long as these opinions are attracting censure rather than reinforcing the tedious “football is for blokes” narrative, the better it will be for all of us.