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.

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

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy