David Randall: The Emperor's New Clothes (05/08/12)

Women's football has been mocked for years. But this is one game in which men are outplayed

Share
Related Topics

Women's football? Women's FOOTBALL? You mean women, playing football? It'd be like men's embroidery. Or an OAPs' relay race. Or synchronised sitting still. Who'd want to watch that? Well, me for one, irrespective of whether GB are up (beating Brazil), or down (and out).

It's, firstly, all the things it is not. Its players are not paid £180,000 a week – our top performer, Steph Houghton, earns less than a tenth of that in an entire year. And they try! They actually look as if they enjoy playing – as opposed to the men who, despite their absurd rewards, all too often give the impression that the game is an arduous penance they have to endure before going out for a night's drinking and groupie-assaulting. Neither, it seems, do the women yell schoolyard effing and blinding abuse at each other, or borrow each other's spouses for the afternoon.

Nor do they cheat, as the men routinely do. Diving, sneaky handballs, and shirt-tugging are at a minimum. The game's played at a sensible pace, which gives skill a chance; and even the commentaries seem better, the inanity and cliché quotient kept well below the dismal Hansen/Shearer/Lawrenson level.

So, what took it so long to hit the big time? Well, thereby hangs a tale. During the Great War, with men's football suspended, the women's game began to take off. The dominant team, as it would be for decades, was a factory side from Preston called the Dick, Kerr Ladies XI. They were virtually unbeatable, had triumphant overseas tours, and attracted vast crowds and raised the modern equivalent of millions for charity. In 1920, when they played at Everton's Goodison Park, 53,000 paid to see them, with 14,000 more locked out. This gate was some 15,000 larger than the biggest crowd at any men's league match that year, so the blazer wearers of the Football Association decided to ban women's football, its council declaring: "The game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged."

It was with no little difficulty that women of the calibre of Hope Powell, Team GB manager, have forced the women's game back into prominence. The very best of luck to them.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform