Women in football

First, a rant warning!

Bookworm was 18 yesterday. At her request, we travelled to Wollongong yesterday afternoon to watch the Matildas play New Zealand at the very beautifully located Win Stadium. The ocean is just over that hill on the far side of the ground.

WIN Stadium Wollongong – Matildas vs New Zealand

It was a scrappy game in parts, with Australia down 1-0 from just after half time until literally 30 seconds before the end of injury time. In the 93rd minute of a technically 90 minute game Thea Slayter headed the ball into the net from a corner kick and all 3,600 of us went up as one. It was a great, if very last minute finish to the game.

I’ve just looked on the Sydney Morning Herald website to see what they wrote about the game so I could include some of it here. There’s nothing. Yes that’s right. Nothing. Typing in ‘Matildas’ to the search function brings up the most recent article which was an interview with the coach written before the game. I haven’t seen today’s paper – I’m sure there was something written there but for there to be no mention of the game on the website seems like a serious oversight to me.

Football Australia has a story on the main page, but even the good old ABC, who can normally be relied upon to promote women’s sport doesn’t have a story about the game. Remembering that the game was in Wollongong, I went looking on the Illawarra Mercury site – they had a story.

What is going on? Our national women’s football side played a game (ok, it was a friendly) and there is barely a whisper about it in the news today. Can you for one minute imagining that happening if it had been the Socceroos playing? (that’s the men’s team for those of you who are not football tragics like us!). Of course not.

For the life of me I can’t see a single good reason to treat women’s sport differently to men’s and yet we see it (and experience it) all the time. Bookworm has played soccer at 3 different clubs over her career and at each one, grading and trials for the girls was not taken as seriously as it was for the boys. Yes, there are girls who ‘just want to play with their friends’ but equally there are boys who want to do that too. Boys are not automatically more competitive or more committed to their sport just because they are boys and yet we have seen this time and again over the years.

This came to a head for me with the Elise Perry story that was splashed all over the front page of the papers a few weeks ago. Perry is a dual international in football & cricket and continues to represent the country at both. The short story is that Perry’s W-League club – Canberra – has asked that she either give up playing cricket for Australia or find another football club to play at. Perry has a place in the Canberra side but can’t commit to all training and games as she has cricketing commitments. Another player steps up to take her place then when Perry returns that player loses her spot. The coach says this isn’t fair on the players who can and do commit to the club and I agree wholeheartedly. The thing that annoys me the most about this story (apart from wondering how it even came to be a front page story) is that we wouldn’t even be having this conversation if Perry were a man. If she were a man, she’d have been encouraged to choose between her sports and everyone would have thought that was reasonable. The idea of Ricky Ponting or Harry Kewell playing both sports at an international level is unthinkable. To me, this story goes right back to the grass roots ‘girls just want to play with their friends’ problem and until we fix that, we will continue to have women’s sport neglected in the news pages in this country.

End rant 🙂