Women’s Soccer Makes a Statement
The 2023 Women’s World Cup (WWC) has just ended with Spain beating England 1-0 in the final. On the way to that concluding game, Sweden, Japan, France, and the Netherlands had classy showings. The USA, Brazil, China, Germany, Portugal, Jamaica, Norway, and Denmark showed well but produced on a comparatively second-tier basis. Spain, with a seemingly inexhaustible production line of talent, demonstrated they will be the nation to beat going forward.
The World Cup has a 93-year history (1930-2023) with twenty-two cups played. The WWC has a short history (1991-2023) with only nine cups played. Of those, the USA has won four, Germany two, and Japan, Norway, and Spain one apiece. The early trend saw the USA women dominate, if at a decreasing rate over time, the latest trend has every other nation catching up and Europe taking the lead on player development, the key to the sport’s sustained growth and mounting quality of play. The final featured the two best women’s teams in the world as of this writing and they produced an engaging show.
Three things stood out to Papa while watching this cup. First, the quality of the women’s game has been improving exponentially. Second, the fan base seems solid, and the voluminous mix of live attendance and television viewing was heartening to cup hosts, FIFA, fans, and broadcasters alike worldwide. Third, this was a cup with many of the world’s best female players out of contention given injury or politics. Spain left a dozen of their squad at home following an administrative dispute with their coach and federation. The Dutch, USA, England, France, and Canada, all had major actors missing. In some cases (the Dutch and English in particular) the absences were critical, and it showed in what the remaining players were able to produce on the pitch. Imagine the show if they had all been able to participate.
The politics of women in any competitive arena where men have historically been either the only participants or have comprehensively dominated, are too many and complicated to pursue with any sense of completeness or justice. In addition, to pick one example, the argument over which standard to apply—equal pay for equal effort viz equal pay for equal ROI—will continue unabated for the foreseeable future. But what must increasingly feel evident to most objective observers is that while the men’s game is on another plane, the women’s efforts are garnering an increasing and deserved level of attention, one that will doubtless inspire future female generations to become fans if not participants of the sport.
Soccer, futebol, football, futbol, is by far and away the biggest sport on the planet by any meaningful comparative measure with any other sport(s). For us lovers of the game, the advances on the women’s front can best be seen with a mix of admiration and hope. Our sport can only benefit from more female participants whether as fans or players, and the fact that an increasing number of women can produce such compelling competitive matches as were on offer in Australia’s WWC23 can only augur well for that benefit to continue augmenting. Hala todas!
Photo: Shutterstock Photo ID: 2321477611, by Social Zap.