England women’s football to make memories at FIFA15

More controversy surrounding FIFA include the responses about women being featured in the next EA Sports video game FIFA16. Whilst this is great news for women’s football, it’s amazing that this is another ‘first time’ event for women and it’s not as progressive as everyone might think. The EA Sports game was first released in 1993 and it is only now, over 20years later that women are going to be featured in the next edition. It’s about time women were included with 4.1 million women playing within organised structures worldwide.

A Sexist Backlash

However, there has been a huge sexist backlash towards this inclusion of the 12 new teams which is evident on twitter. Many of the sexist remarks were defended by them being ‘just jokes’ but that is not acceptable. There are fine lines between ‘banter’, bullying, harassment and abuse and in light of the history and the ongoing oppression that some women continue to experience all over the world – it’s not funny! These are yet more ways to trivialise the seriousness of derogatory jokes towards women and to trivialise women’s football. Amelia Butterly argued that not only are these remarks unfunny, they are inaccurate and addressed these comments. The twitter feeds included comments about female players having a bad game ‘because she’s on her period’, being unable to play for 9 months ‘because she’s pregnant’, blaming feminism for ‘ruining everything’ and one man asked ‘Why would you want to include them unless they’re going to exchange shirts on the pitch!’

It is good news that these ‘jokes’ are finally being reprimanded because these negative, sexualising, derogatory and out of date comments get splashed over twitter whenever women’s football is on TV and attitudes need to change. Evidently, whilst the inclusion of women in EA Sports is a positive move forward for women’s football, it is not enough to just include women in a new console game; attitudes need to be changed so that women are respected and valued not only in sport but in society. These attitudes are unlikely to just be evident in football; they are likely to leak into public working life which is why it is so important not to let these disrespectful comments pass without reprimand.

It is difficult to see how things will change as long as sexist reputations remain in football and whilst FIFA is under investigation for corruption whilst simultaneously withholding funds from investing in the women’s game. Whilst Heather Rabbatts’ resignation is the latest attempt to try and bring reform to Fifa, let’s also use this opportunity to put sexism alongside other priorities (e.g. kicking out racism, homophobia, and corruption) in football.

Whilst all this is going on though, the England Women’s Team don’t seem to have let these news stories affect their focus. After their 10-day training camp at St George’s Park, assistant coach, Marieanne Spacey, urged her team to ‘make some memories’. They’ve certainly made a start on that; they have had a warm-up game against Canada which gave them the opportunity to practice on the artificial turf. Despite England conceding one goal, Karen Bardsley had her work cut out and denied quite a few goals and Fara Williams with a phenomenal long shot which unfortunately hit the bar; an exciting game with great coverage. With England qualifying for the 2015 Women’s World Cup with 100% record that is worth supporting!

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