(A womanly Football love)
By Megha Jose (BE CSE, 2012-2016)
It was the first day of college and we were asked to introduce ourselves. And it began; I love this, I am interested in that. Then it was my turn. I love football, I said. The moment I said that, I could see different reactions from the class, especially the guys. Some looked at me with surprise and others with pure scorn. This is just the most basic example of sexism in football.
In general, and quoting, girls are known for their gossip, makeovers and ranting about some petty issue. And when it comes to something like football, which is one of those typical “guy things”, I’ve come to realise that most males wouldn’t appreciate it if a female challenged their skills or even their knowledge. In this male chauvinistic society, the idea of women following football or any sport for that matter is something that they cannot seem to accept.
Helena Costa, the first woman ever appointed to lead a professional men’s club quit her ground-breaking job in July 2014. She quit – before the first ball was even kicked. Costa, who had previously scouted for Celtic and coached the Iranian and Qatari women’s national teams, had only been appointed in May in what had been praised around the world as a landmark decision.Women have had to put up with some very patronising behaviour at various times in the still fairly masculine world of football. We all recall Sky Sports commentators Andy Gray and Richard Keys’ jibes at a female Assistant Referee, Siam Masey – “Do us a favour love, do you even know the off side rule?” When male officials get it wrong, it’s because they’re inept. When female officials get it wrong, apparently it’s because they are women?
What was the reason for her resignation? “A total lack of respect”, she said. Now, it makes you think why the club would sign a female coach in the first place if they were not going to give her any respect. It could be many reasons.
“My departure is a collection of events that no coach would have been able to allow,” she wrote. “I find it unacceptable that, within a professional structure, the coach learns of a player signing via the secretariat of the club by reading the names of players in a list of those who have to undergo medical tests.”
She didn’t just let it go. She contacted the club’s sporting director, but the reply she got was quite disgraceful. “By email, I immediately informed the sporting director of my disagreement. His response: ‘You wear me out with your tons of mails. I’m not at your beck and call.’”
When she was appointed as coach, Club President Claude Michy was praised as a pioneer all over the world. But, when she resigned, the statement he made was not nearly pioneer-like, but sexist in every waking sense. “She simply told me, ‘I’m leaving’. She goes with her secret,” he told the press. “She’s a woman. They are capable of making us believe a certain number of things.”
The next appointment for the managerial post at Clermont Foot was yet another woman. Corinne Diacre was an assistant for the French national team for seven years and is definitely qualified. But it makes you wonder; was the replacement a genuine one? It begs the question of whether Clermont wanted her for her coaching credentials or to just curb the previous issue they faced. Helena Costa definitely thinks it’s the latter. She accused them of hiring a woman primarily for their ‘face’ and for the publicity, and not including them in any of the important decisions the club made. In short- a puppet!
Female discrimination is something experienced by not only the professionals but it extends to the female fans as well. Female fandom is not only laughed at, but put down at most times. From my personal experiences, I can say that every time I claimed to watch football, I had to ‘prove it’ to those boys before they actually believed me. Try and think about all the girls you see on TV. The only girls they show are the good looking ones! When it comes to men, they are passionate and ardent football fans.
Personally, my Chelsea fandom started out by the mere choice of colour! We were being split into teams for a “United vs. Chelsea” game in my apartment. I being completely clueless about either of the two teams was put in Chelsea just because I liked blue better than red. Chelsea started to grow on me slowly each day and before I knew it, I was a true blue! This led to me watching games alone most of the time! Although I wish I had another girlfriend to watch it with, it never really made a difference. Either way, every single game has had an overwhelming effect on me. Although I’m agnostic, you’ll see me praying to all the Gods for a Chelsea victory! And when we do win, I’m filled with ecstasy, and when we lose, depressed is not the word.
It is shameful that though living in the 21st century, women are frowned upon in the footballing world. It’s about time people realised that we are the opposite sex, not the inferior sex. It’s about time that the football culture changed to accommodate the likes of women in it. Be it a professional like Helena Costa or just another girl who loves the game.
So for all those men out there who think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, wake up and face the truth; wake up and look around you!
We can be entrepreneurs, we can be leaders and we can sure be hard-core football fans!
Featured Image by Keith Rowley on Flickr
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