Comment: After PSG manager Laurent Blanc offends female reporter, it's ime to show male chauvinism the red card

Laurent Blanc's comments to a female reporter typify football's patronising view of women, says Emily Dugan

Do you know the difference between 4-4-2 and 4-3-3? What about the definition of the offside trap? Or what Total Football means? If the answer to any of the above is yes, then, according to a leading figure in French football, you are either: a) a man; or b) a female freak of nature.

Laurent Blanc, the manager of David Beckham's erstwhile club Paris Saint-Germain, has become the latest in a growing list of old men to suggest that it is extraordinary for a woman to understand The Beautiful Game.

In an interview with Johanna Frändén, a reporter for the Swedish daily newspaper Aftonbladet, Mr Blanc thought it was worth commenting on the fact that a football reporter understood, er, football. Ms Frändén had grilled the manager and former World Cup winner on having recently switched his team's formation. "Women talking football tactics, it's so beautiful," he said in response. "I find that fantastic. And what's more, you know what 4-3-3 means, don't you?"

Her reply, that it was her job to know what it meant, was met with a rapid backtrack. "I mean," he said, "there are a lot of ways of playing. I was just joking."

Ms Frändén says the episode was "far from the most egregious or shocking" example of sexism she has been confronted with. Her experience of working in Italy, Spain and France in recent years has shown that "comments on gender and appearance in football journalism are still commonplace".

These jibes are, she says, a "reflection of an industry where men have been interviewing men about football since the dawn of time – and where the rest of us are still exotic elements in the great masculine football family". That "football family" extends far beyond the dressing rooms and press booths. Its prejudices will be familiar to any women involved in football – whether as players, commentators or amateur enthusiasts.

When hopping around on crutches after tearing my ankle ligaments this year, I was amazed by the number of (male) cabbies who joked that I must have hurt it playing football. As it happened, that is exactly what I'd done. But their assumption that I had tottered off a pair of heels – and that for a woman to play the game was laughable – gave me a brief insight into its ingrained image as a man's game.

The problem goes right to the top. Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, suggested in 2004 that female footballers should play in tighter, skimpier clothes to attract more viewers. For anyone unfamiliar with the wording of his "hotpants" gaffe, it is worth revisiting to get an idea of the sexism at the upper echelons of the game.

"Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball," he said. "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?"

Though Sepp Blatter remains at the helm of Fifa, things are changing elsewhere. At the BBC, presenters such as Gabby Logan and Jacqui Oatley are regular, respected commentators, and this year the broadcaster made sure that, for the first time, every game of the Uefa Women's Championship (Women's Euro 2013) was aired.

There are hopeful signs that it is dawning on the footballing world that the game does not just belong to men. If only it could happen a little faster.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz