I’ve not been in the football blogging world too long and I must say that, until now, I’ve found it to be a mostly positive experience. I prefer not to make a big deal about the fact I’m a woman blogging in a world dominated by men because, for me, it doesn’t really come into it. As long as my opinions are valid, my facts are straight and my blogs find an audience then that’s all that matters to me – and all that SHOULD matter to everyone else.
It’s with that in mind, however, that there is an element of being a woman in football that I have found at best uncomfortable and, at worst, intimidating. The nomination of Stephanie Roche for the Puskas Goal of the Year Award for her stunning volley playing for Irish side Peamount United in 2014 was the latest in a number of events that have considerably raised the profile of the women’s game. There’s no doubt that the goal, which combines juggling of the ball with a powerful volley home, is of the highest quality and deserved every plaudit and nomination it received. She may have been beaten by male counterpart and Real Madrid star James Rodriguez but it’s more than fair to say that Roche’s effort didn’t look out of place.
However, I’m afraid my viewing of women’s football in general hasn’t quite matched that standard. I’ve tried, on numerous occasions to view the womens’ game with the same respect afforded to the mens’ but the huge number of passing gaffes and particularly horrendous goal keeping make it hard to defend. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of that kind of stuff in the mens’ game, but it doesn’t seem to happen with quite the regularity or in quite as hilarious a fashion as the womens’ game. Equally, though, players such as Arsenal and England striker Kelly Smith, Germany star Birgit Prinz, Brazil’s Marta and the original pioneer Mia Hamm prove that female footballers of the highest quality DO truly exist.
So here’s where the problem with being a woman commentating on the beautiful game comes. I feel an obligation….. no, I’m sometimes MADE to feel an obligation by other women in the game to defend the professional womens’ game when, to be absolutely honest, my heart isn’t in it. I appreciate that the only way the game will improve will be through support and encouragement, particularly from other women, but I can’t pretend that the standard of the womens’ game is anywhere near the level some would pretend it is. Let’s put it this way, men were (quite rightly) not rushing to endorse the MLS or the Australian A League in their infancy. They recognised that the standard was poor and the leagues were openly mocked because of it. Now, I’m not saying we should mock the women who play football, but equally, we shouldn’t patronise them with false praise.
I appreciate how this post may make me look. It may make me look like an anti-feminist. I’m not. I’m merely suggesting that the womens’ game be judged by standards that can push it to be better. With more and more full time professional players now on club’s books, I’m sure that will come. But until then, honesty is the best policy. If the quality of a match between two female sides is poor, say so. If the manner in which a goalkeeper spills the ball over the line with no one near her is funny, laugh. And, most importantly, don’t fail to criticise any woman the way the men are criticised. It’ll be good for the game in the long run. Where there was once a female Fernando Torres, there may one day be a Miss Messi.