Whatever the result in the semi-finals vs. Australia tomorrow, the Lionesses have had a wonderful World Cup tournament.  Sarina Wiegman is a shining beacon of brilliant leadership, creating a squad of players and coaching staff who believe in and trust each other.  It’s not just about the superstar players – it’s about everyone working together to create the magic. 

The Lionesses generate an atmosphere of joy and goodwill with their skill, humour and pioneering spirit.  Every single one of the players have fascinating stories of breaking down the barriers of football for boys during childhood and fighting against all odds to prove so many people wrong that women can and do play great football.

What an achievement!

Unfortunately, there are still those who grumble about women’s football, dismissing it as not as good as men’s and therefore not worth supporting. 

There was an interesting article in The Times about the comparisons between women’s and men’s football.  A link to the article is below, but as The Times – annoyingly – don’t allow access to non-subscribers, I’ll tell you the gist of the argument.

The article tells the story of the Brazil team playing a World Cup warm-up game in Queensland against the state under 15s boys team, which the boys won 3-1.  So does this prove the sceptics right?

For those who wish to disparage the quality of the women’s game, losing 3-1 to an under 15 boys team appears to be a good argument.  But is it really a stick to bash women’s football?  

When trying to assess what team to put against Brazil the Football Queensland technical director initially considered the boys under 16s, but then reflected that 15-year-olds turning 16 are pretty much men.  So he went for under 15s where many of the boys were still developing.  The side were also technically very good for their level. 

The match played was interesting in that the first 30 minutes the boys hardly touched the ball because Brazil were so good technically, yet as the game went on the speed of the boys and their physicality started to show. 

What’s important here when developing both the women’s and the men’s game – and especially during the teenage years – it that boys have to learn to deal with the technical superiority of the women, and women have to learn to deal with the physicality of the boys.  So friendly fixtures like this can benefit both the women’s and the men’s game – and should not be used to compare the two. 

What’s also interesting for football is the need to compare the women with the men.  In more mature women’s sports much fewer comparisons are made.  In 1998, Serena and Venus Williams lost to a German ranked 203 in the world, but no-one would question the Williams sisters’ excellence.  The women’s all-time 100m record stands at 10.49 seconds, the best 100m time by a 15 year old boy is 0.29 faster, but we don’t disparage women’s athletics because of how it compares with the men’s   We enjoy it for what it is. 

Real fans love the football, not the gender.  You may prefer to watch a faster, more physical version of the game (men’s), but don’t dismiss the technical excellence at the top of the women’s game.  These are two different, but connected, versions of entertainment.  Enjoy both!

And give your whole-hearted support to the England Lionesses.

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