Prejudice and ignorance

Prejudice and ignorance are two biggest killers of women soccer.

Just as FFA announced placing their bid for the FIFA Women World Cup 2023 and launched a new #GetOnside campaign, I decided to write why #GetOnSide can quickly become a #StandASide campaign.

Our Government developed a strategy to help shape the future of women’s sport at all levels: Government of NSW – Office of Sport “Women in Australia sport are shining brighter than ever”; Government of Victoria – VicHealth website “Sport provides a valuable setting to change social norms, attitudes and culture to advance gender equality. VicHealth has been proudly championing the important role women all over Victoria and Australia play in society, and in today’s context, in sports participation, leadership, management, media and as professional athletes, “

And yet, the reality is very confronting. Last Sunday I went to see the W-League’s Melbourne Victory vs Adelaide United game.

The first game of the season. A pretty big deal, you would think? If you think that then you are the only one who does.

Not because the girls played badly, they did well, indeed it was a very interesting game, but because of the number of spectators.

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For those of you who don’t know – this game was free. Yes, FREE! You buy a ticket for the men’s game – you also get a free entry for the earlier girl’s game, buy 1, get 2. It is some sort of sale of an unwanted product or an awkward promotion of an expiring offer. Or even worse, you are buying a ticket for men’s game and if you come earlier – there is an entertainment for you: a few girls chasing a ball around– what a bonus!

It would be funny if it had not been so sad. Girls are not attracting a crowd therefore, they will wait for 2023 to get acknowledgment and cost controlling sorted. International guest will fill the seats. And problem appears to be solved!

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I’m sure many people think that there is only one sport dedicated for girls: netball.

Is it because we assume women’s soccer is a low-quality game?

Seriously? Look where on the International ladder the Matilda’s are and where the boys’ Socceroos finished at the last World Cup. Unpleasant truth. Do we still believe boys are playing better?

Or is it because as a culture we give more support to the boys, rather than to the girls? Five minutes after the girl’s game finished I saw a thousand of fans pouring into the stadium to watch the guys play. Moreover, our wives and daughters, friends and mothers also arriving for a boy’s game only. Cause they could not care less or maybe they decided not to support girls at all? Maybe they don’t even know that girls were playing earlier on the day. Is it something to do with a decision taken by the “family decision maker”? And that is exactly the point – where women make themselves unimportant.

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But tomorrow, you will be fighting for gender equality and crime prevention against women. It all starts from here: from our disinterest in something what is not directly related to your household or the life of other family members. Unfortunately, when we make sure we put others’ interests first we end up neglecting ours.

There is a thread, which unites few things, which at first, so different:

  • being unequal in spectator’s representation at sporting arenas is linked to having a high rate of domestic violence against women,
  • being unequal in pay and job offers is linked to being unequal in decision making, which all leads to general inequality in rights.

If we put ourselves second – we arrive last.

We send out a damaging message that physical strength is the prime quality. Unintentionally, we let everyone think that what girls want doesn’t count. And intentionally we have to change that now.

We not only can change, we must change it today!

This country has a chance to do things differently: to make a women’s game the main attraction and it depends on us here and now to make that change.

Simple as that, just pledge to visit at least three games of W-league this season, not all of them, but at least three games!!!

I’m opening up my calendar right now. It will only take a minute of my time. Let us not wait until tomorrow.

Invite your friends, bring your partner earlier to the stadium, let your family enjoy the girl’s game, the game which will make a big difference to how women are regarded in our society. The game which grows healthy kids and healthy relationships, healthy dreams and healthy ambitions.

Can’t visit three games? Buy three tickets – you don’t have to come, give them to your friend as a gift.

Don’t have spare money? Let’s create a #I’llBeThere and make it loud, spread a word around.

You are too busy to think about it? Share this article with three of your friends for a start.

I don’t know what else I can/may ask of you? We can do so much(!) and so little at the same time. This should be just like elections, you don’t let anyone choose for you. After all, one game will show you why women’s soccer will be number one in this country.

Go girl power! Our time has come.

#I’llBeThere!

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