Since it’s National Women’s Day, I thought it would be quite apt to revisit a topic I wrote about over a year ago: The condescension of female football fans.
This is a piece I’ve been thinking about updating for a month or so now but given what day it is, I figured now would be as good a time as any.
My original piece, which you’re welcome to read, talks about the level of knowledge women need to prove they possess in order to be taken seriously. Most men can walk into a bar, spout some outdated, irrational nonsense and more or less be taken seriously right off the bat. Women, on the other hand, have to be put through their paces in order to prove that they’re worthy of partaking in such conversations with The Men. We’re often subjected to a serious of rigorous exams, usually after a drink or two, just to show we’re not making it up.
However, usually thrown in amongst relevant questions that John Humphrys would be proud off, there’s often a random curve-ball chucked in just to catch you out.
One example is when I went out with my dad and brother for drinks with their business friends in central London a number of months ago. Upon finding out that I’m a football writer for an Arsenal site, one of my dad’s colleagues asked me out of the blue in front of a group of around six people, all decked out in expensive suits: “So what team do I support then?”
He had a London accent but that doesn’t mean a lot nowadays so I asked him to give me a clue.
“We’ve won five European trophies,” he smirked, nudging his other work friend.
When I simply replied with the Merseyside team we all love to hate, I don’t think I’ve ever seen my brother look so smug on my behalf before.
The thing is, Liverpool or their impressive history in Europe has nothing to do with Arsenal and nothing to do with my job. He’s an architect but do I go and ask him about the inner workings of the Eiffel Tower? What’s more, is if I was a man – my brother for example – I would never have been tested in the first place.
Skip forward to November and I’m having some drinks with a friend of a friend. We’re talking about my job and he seems interested to know more about it. Talk moves onto the players and I was gushing over Mesut Ozil (a daily occurrence), specifically, I was talking about watching him in person because his movement off the ball is unreal. My then-friend stopped me talking, laughed and asked: “Who are you repeating this from?”
I’ve never been so insulted in my entire life. It’s not as if I was talking about quantum physics, I was talking about an aspect of Ozil’s game that many, if not all, people can see. To then accuse me of copying someone else’s views, as if I, a woman, couldn’t even begin to understand football by myself, was downright offensive. Needless to say, I’ve not seen him since.
4-4-2, 4-5-1, 4-3-3
Something else I have a personal issue with is, if you’re a woman and you don’t know about all areas of the game, you also get tarred with the ‘fake fan’ brush. I’ll willingly and openly admit that I haven’t got much clue when it comes to tactics – I’m more into writing about opinions and general feelings about a game. I know the basics but when I read some of the other writers’ columns here on Daily Cannon, they might as well be speaking French. I understand bits but not nearly enough and although I’m learning, it’s a process. However, because of this lack of knowledge, I often don’t feel adequate to really get involved in conversations in case I get ‘exposed’.
Women in Football
On the other hand, the response I had to my original article was largely positive. I had the odd person say I need to find new friends to hang around with in an ‘it’s your fault you have terrible mates’ way, but other than that I had a huge amount of women tweet me and tell me how I’d pretty much read their minds.
In addition, the amount of opportunities I’ve had presented to me because I’m a female football writer have been exciting to say the least. I’ve met women from all walks of life through @WomenInFootball events, with one thing in common: we love football. I’ve visited the BBC, heard inspirational people talk, learnt so much and also grew in confidence.
The cheesy bit
We’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to equality in football and I don’t just mean that in terms of gender. Racism and homophobia are still rife in the sport. However, we are making baby steps.
Surround yourself with the right people who allow you to express yourself without disdain or skepticism. Talk about football to your heart’s content. You do you.