Even though in the past women’s football has not been celebrated anywhere near as much as the men’s, it’s fair to say that this year the attention and enthusiasm surrounding the Women’s World Cup has increased massively. The UK TV audience records were broken four times in France, with England vs USA in the semi-final reaching the peak audience of 11.7 million, with the previous record being 4 million. This is sure to be a huge shift in the overall perception on women’s football and the future it has on our tellies.
I have to be honest and say this was the first year I have properly sat down and watched the women’s football and I was pleasantly surprised by how much me and my mates got involved and excited about every game. We found ourselves on the edge of our seats during every England match and were gutted to see them be defeated by the number ones in the semis.
So who won it? USA, who excelled in this World Cup it has to be said. Holding the two top scorers, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, they were definitely a force to be reckoned with. While I was hopeful in our attempt to stop them in the semi-final, I have to say I wasn’t surprised to see them win and go on to lift the trophy at the end of it. It was well deserved and they put on a great show every game, (apart from against us when they played it into the corner for the last 20 minutes).
Megan Rapinoe hugely stood out this year. Some are even calling it ‘Rapinoe’s tournament’. She won the Golden Boot, the Golden Ball and was the official FIFA player of the match in the final, which she also scored in. She’s also been known to have an impact off the field. She’s voiced her LGBTQ allegiance, as well as sued the federation over equal pay and working conditions in women’s football, with her US squad.
As for England in this World Cup, we did better than expected. Phil Neville took on the role of manager and clearly did a good job, considering there could’ve been controversy around a male manager for a women’s football team. England’s Ellen White matched top scorer with 6 goals. After England’s loss to Sweden in the 3rd place play off, leaving them 4th, Phil Neville said to the BBC: ”What it leaves us with is that we have another 15-20% to go. This is sport. We have to come back in four years and be better.” The future is hopeful for the female English side.
Overall this World Cup was a huge success and raised awareness on female football and female sports all together. I was also happy that me and my friends got so into it, as it filled the often dreaded odd number year with a highly entertaining international football tournament. While awareness of the women’s football was raised highly this year it has to be said that gender equality in sport still has a long way to go. The pay gap, for starters, between male and female football players is still pre-historic. The prize money for teams in the women’s World Cup was £24m this year. The prize money for teams in the men’s World Cup last year was £315m, more than 13 times as much. The highest paid female players also earn around £35,000 per year, compared with the top male players who will earn more than that in a day. So I guess this leaves us asking what will be next in the world of women’s football and will FIFA act accordingly in response to the numerous protests carried out by those who feel the pay gap needs to be addressed.