Women’s World Cup: nearly 1m tickets sold

Hear me roar: England’s lionesses are ranked third in the world.

Could women’s football be as good as men’s? Launching tonight, this year’s Women’s World Cup is the biggest ever — with fans claiming women are more resilient and more exciting to watch.

“We play for a nation that doesn’t even know our names,” says Alexandra Popp, a striker for the German women’s football team, in a TV advert for this year’s World Cup. “Since we started, we haven’t just fought against opponents. We fought against prejudice.” She describes the abuse and sexism she and her fellow players have faced.

“We don’t have balls — but we know how to use them,” the team declares.

The viral advert captured the spirit of the women’s game around the world: determined, defiant and tired of being sidelined.

And so, a year after France won last year’s World Cup, the women’s tournament will kick off tonight in Paris. Host nation France will face South Korea.

There is more excitement about this year’s tournament than ever before. It has been called “the most important in history” by FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura. Ticket sales in France have smashed records, and TV viewing figures are expected to smash the 750 million who tuned in four years ago.

Women’s football is attracting more investment, and players are receiving more sponsorship deals than ever before.

“When I was playing, there were only two or three teams who could potentially win a World Cup,” former England player Kelly Smith told CNN. “Now you could name six to eight teams who could potentially do something special [...], it makes it better for viewers to watch.”

England’s lionesses are one of those teams. They are currently ranked third in the world. “We’re so powerful right now. We’re a steam train, we’re not stopping,” defender Leah Williamson said in a BBC documentary on Sunday. France, Germany and the Netherlands are also contenders.

But the USA is the reigning champion, and the favourite to win again this year. The team is so successful that it is suing the United States Soccer Federation for equal pay with their male colleagues, who did not qualify for last year’s tournament.

Like a girl?

Female players are getting better all the time but, outside the USA, they are still nowhere near their male colleagues. The women’s teams simply do not get the same investment. The players are not all full-time — Leah Williamson is also training to be an accountant. Until the women’s game is taken as seriously as the men’s, it will never be as good.

But is money all it takes to make a good footballer? Some say that the women’s game is even better than the men’s. A study found that male players take around 30 seconds longer to get up after a foul, and 10 seconds longer leaving the pitch for a substitution. Female players are more resilient, more exciting to watch, and more down-to-Earth than the overpaid men.

You Decide

  1. Will you be watching the Women’s World Cup?
  2. Should female footballers players be paid the same as men?

Activities

  1. As a class, take it in turns to list what it takes to be a good footballer. Then, discuss: Are girls better at these things than boys?
  2. Choose one of the female players who will be taking part in this year’s World Cup. Write a profile about their life and achievements so far.

Some People Say...

“Tomboys get medals. Tomboys win championships. Tomboys can fly. Oh. And tomboys aren’t boys.”

Julie Foudy, US footballer

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
This year, FIFA is awarding £24 million to participating teams at the Women’s World Cup, which it says is double what they earned in 2015. However, this is dwarfed by the £315 million given to the men’s teams last year. The difference has increased by £21 million. Australia’s players’ union has accused FIFA of discrimination.
What do we not know?
Whether football will ever award equal pay to female players. The truth is that women’s football — although it is gaining popularity — still does not attract the same audiences as the men’s game (not including the USA). This means that male players bring in more money for the sport. England’s Toni Duggan argues that for this reason, “the girls should be better paid, but not the same as the men”. Do you agree?

Word Watch

World Cup
The women’s tournament was first held in 1991. The seven World Cups have only been won by four countries: the USA (three times), Germany (twice), and once each for Japan and the Netherlands. This year, 24 national teams will participate.
Smashed records
Tickets for tonight’s opening match in Paris, the semi-finals and the final all sold out within 48 hours of going on sale.
Suing
According to the lawsuit that was filed on 8 March, in some cases female footballers are earning 38% of what male footballers earn per game. This is despite the fact that the US women’s football team draws more viewers, earns more profits, and is far more successful than the men’s. It has won several World Cup titles, whilst the men’s team has only ever come third — and that was back in 1930.
Study
According to The Telegraph, the same study showed that male players also celebrated 30 seconds longer than women.

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