World Cup shows how wrong I was about women’s football

England midfielder Fara Williams in action during the second half of a Fifa Womens World Cup soccer

England midfielder Fara Williams in action during the second half of a Fifa Womens World Cup soccer match in Montreal, Canada, on Wednesday. Picture: Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press/AP - Credit: AP

This column is fast turning into my confessional. This week, I'd like to confess that I have long held an outdated, downright sexist, view of women's football.

Never mind the fact that I'd hardly ever seen any women's matches: I just knew that it must be slow, lacking in skill and deadly dull.

Years of playing and watching men's football gave me a misplaced superiority complex.

I was convinced that even at the top-level women were operating somewhere below my very modest level.

I tuned in to matches from the Women's World Cup in Canada, certain that I would have my prejudices confirmed, and would soon switch over through boredom.


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How conceited. And how totally wrong.

Much of what I have watched has been vibrant, fast, skilful, entertaining and absorbing, forcing me to stay tuned, and to gorge on humble pie.

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It hasn't suffered in the least in comparison with the men's World Cup last year, where some of the matches were yawn-fests.

If you have any doubts about what I am writing, search on the internet for France's fifth goal against Mexico on Wednesday – a 30-yard screamer by Amandine Henry that her namesake Thierry would have been proud of. Or look for the superb skill displayed in every match by Colombia's Lady Andrade.

There are countless other examples, and it feels pretty condescending to point them out.

The thing is, though, there are millions of people in Britain who share the sexist and ill-informed view of women's football.

And it is time for it to be overcome.

In tennis, athletics, cycling and many other sports, men and women are treated as equals, by the authorities, the paymasters and the public.

When Virginia Wade won Wimbledon or Tessa Sanderson won an Olympic javelin gold medal, nobody sneered – we just celebrated British glory.

There is no reason why this should not be the same for football, but it will require a generous and necessary dose of positive discrimination by media companies.

England's women's World Cup squad are currently making good progress, but are shunted away on BBC3.

Perhaps they will move to BBC1 or BBC2 if they continue to progress.

But they should not have been sidelined in the first place, as only profile and publicity will force more people to change their views.

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