Mumbai Mirror is writing a new chapter in women’s soccer—nay, girl’s soccer—in Mumbai.
The tabloid—in concert with Western India Football Association (WIFA) and Mumbai School Sports Association (MSSA)—has organised a Girls Soccer League beginning this Saturday at the Cooperage.
Over 100 teams are participating. The aim is to promote the game at the grassroots.
WIFA CEO Henry Menezes said:
“WIFA has successfully conducted coach education and grassroot programmes. It is important to get such an event for the kids to display their talent, especially girls. Even at national level our girls have started to do much better than boys.
Hopefully once this becomes a success, this tournament will become a year-on affair.
We are getting non-stop enquiries. It is so promising. It will be hard to accommodate everybody. But look at the interest. It’s tremendous. We need to set up trend with this tournament.”
The rink tournament is five-a-side.
NGOs, private clubs, local sides and, of course, schools will take part in three categories:
Under-14, Under-16 and Open.
The Mirror Girls Soccer League will be one of the largest sporting events dedicated solely to the fairer sex.
The Mumbai Mirror is a part of the Times of India group of publications.
Women’s soccer is played in 176 countries internationally.
It is a little known fact that women’s football was banned by the British Football Association in 1921 on the grounds that it was distasteful.
This led to the formation of the English Ladies Football Association. Matches were played on rugby grounds.
The FA’s ban was finally lifted in 1971.
The first FIFA Women’s World Cup was held in 1991.
Women players do not make as much money as the men; their earnings on the average are a seventh of their male counterparts.
Coverage of the sport, too, is minuscule.
According to an article in the Guardian, “stories about men’s sports outnumbered those about women’s sports by 20 to one in March 2013 in six national titles – the Sun, Mirror, Times, Telegraph, Mail and Express.”
Jane Martinson wrote:
“The arguments usually put forward for the lack of coverage is that no one is interested in women’s sport, yet the interest shown on social media and among TV viewers suggests otherwise. Women’s football got its own series on BBC2 for a bit, while the women’s football World Cup final of 2011 was at the time the most-tweeted event in the history of Twitter.
Previous research has shown that sports journalism has one of the lowest percentages of female journalists, with a Women in Journalism study three years ago revealing that just 3% of all sport stories in a given month were written by women.”
Their cause was not helped by FIFA President Sepp Blatter’s comments in 2004 when he said:
“Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts.
Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”
The remarks only highlighted Blatter’s ignorance.
Pauline Cope, the then England and Charlton goalkeeper, responded:
“We don’t use a lighter ball for one thing, and to say we should play football in hotpants is plain ridiculous.
It’s completely irresponsible for a man in a powerful position to make comments like this.”
Then Fulham manager Marieanne Spacey added:
“Surely it’s about skill and tactical ability first and how people look second. Ten years ago we did play in tighter shorts. Nobody paid attention then.”
Movies like ‘Bend it like Beckham’ have engendered interest in the sport amongst young girls over the past decade.
The Indian women are ranked 56 as against the men who are a lowly 167.
With some luck, hard work and better organization, India could have a women’s team representing the country at the FIFA Women’s World Cup much before the men.
That would really be something. Wouldn’t it?
Disclaimer: The writer is in no way connected or associated with Mumbai Mirror or its sister publications.