By Charlotte Carver, Match day Reporter
Women have an ever-increasing presence in the footballing world, whether that be in either the women’s or men’s game. The place of women in football is justified, so why is it still sometimes considered strange for women to show an interest in the beautiful game? For International Women’s Day 2021, it is time to challenge this perception of football being exclusively for men.
As a football fan myself, I know what it is like to receive comments or questions about your knowledge and commitment to the game. People always ask why I have such an interest, or even think of it as quite novel, when really it is not. It is much more socially acceptable for girls to have an avid interest in the game now, but there is still the underlying idea that women need to prove their place in order to gain respect in the footballing world.
A few men seem to think that you cannot possibly enjoy the game as much as them if you don’t immediately know who started for MK Dons on 17 February 2007. This can cause some girls to feel as if they are not allowed to even say that they appreciate football, let alone like it.
On the flip side, I do feel comfortable in the football community. The fact I was confident enough to sit alone at the opposite end of Carrow Road from my brother and Dad at a Norwich match shows progress.
The rise of women working in football, the likes of Laura Woods and Bianca Westwood, further challenges the idea that it is strange for women to be interested in football.
Epigram spoke to Abigail Davies, a sports reporter and a part of Sky Sports Soccer Saturday. Working in the men’s game, Davies has obviously come across the odd sexist comment. She recalled once being asked if she was at a match for football or fashion: ‘A really bizarre comment as I was just wearing jeans and a turtleneck jumper (before Pep made it trendy!)’
Thankfully, Davies’ gender has not been an obstacle in getting to her current role, ‘I’ve been very fortunate to work for people who have just been interested in my football knowledge and broadcasting ability and have judged my competency solely on that.’
Davies pointed out that the women in her industry have paved the way for it to be seen as normal for women to be interested in the game. She did however note that: ‘We still have wilfully ignorant people who can’t accept that football is for everyone and doesn’t discriminate.’ Luckily, she has seen lots of change from the days where she would be constantly quizzed about the offside rule!
Over the recent years there has also been a marked rise in prominence of the women’s game. Aston Villa U21 player, Mary McAteer, told Epigram about her experience as a professional women’s footballer.
Asked whether she thought it was seen as strange for women to be interested in football, McAteer said: ‘I think it’s definitely seen as different to be interested in football, but I don’t think it’s strange as such, especially over the past few years I think it’s got a lot better!’
Instead, McAteer pointed to the inequality between the men’s and women’s game as the worst aspect of women in football. Despite playing for both Wales and England nationally, McAteer still faces comments such as ‘you’re good, for a girl’ or ‘that’s impressive, for a girl’.
When it comes to trying to succeed as a female athlete, McAteer said: ‘People don’t understand how hard female athletes in general have to work. One of my favourite quotes is that “Women have to work twice as hard as men to get half the respect.”’
One of my favourite quotes is that “Women have to work twice as hard as men to get half the respect”
McAteer raised attention to the fact that this is the first time in her seven years of playing top-level football that she has not had to pay for her own football kit. ‘In previous years, girls would have to pay for all their kit, transport and starting fee, whereas the boys would get it all free and a lot more,’ she explained.
This difference in funding available in the women’s game is down to a lack of sponsorship and limited coverage of games.
McAteer believes that: ‘Women’s football is definitely on the up, but I think that when it comes to actually watching a women’s game, people disregard it, just assuming that it won’t be as good as the men’s game.’
This lack of appreciation and acceptance of women’s football is probably the greatest change needed in the football world to achieve full gender equality.
On the whole, it is definitely seen as less strange than ever before for women to show interest in football. Female representation within the game is rising, proving there is room in the game for women as well but there is still room for improvement.
Featured Image: Mary McAteer
Have you had similar experiences?