A result for women’s sport: The World Cup has won over hearts and minds

 

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Many people will have woken up yesterday morning and felt a familiar sense of queasiness as they heard the news that England had been knocked out of a World Cup semi-final. But some may have been surprised at their level of disappointment; a sign they had invested more emotion in the women’s game than perhaps they had expected.

The outcome of Wednesday night’s match – and the awful manner of England’s defeat – will have left the team and its travelling supporters in despair. Poor Laura Bassett will have to re-live her own-goal over and over. Yet despite everything, this World Cup has been a triumph for England and for women’s football.

For the first time an international football tournament played by women has been properly covered by the media. For the first time, it has felt as if the public has been interested. And for the first time, people in England really cared, en masse, when the team was knocked out. Huge credit must go to the players and the coach, who – along with the other top sides in this tournament – have demonstrated beyond doubt that women’s football has the quality and skill to appeal to a wide audience.

There is still a long way to go until it has real commercial clout, but there is now a solid platform on which to build. Fifa must recognise that the moment has come to step up promotional efforts even further, as must the FA here.

For much too long women’s sport in general has been treated with a degree of disdain by male fans and by many who regard themselves as sports aficionados. The football World Cup has shown that such attitudes are misplaced. Later this month, England’s women cricketers will, like their male counterparts, take on Australia for the Ashes. They should be cheered on just as loudly as the men.

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