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The beautiful game, but not if you’re a woman

By Helen Carson

The biggest football tournament in the world is about to kick off, and it will be either heaven or hell depending on your point of view.

The beautiful game, as it has been described, is the perfect excuse for some serious male bonding over glamour teams such as Brazil — or more importantly their shapely bra-clad female fans who are happy to shake their booty and all in the name of national pride.

The WAGs of players from the 32 countries competing for football’s biggest prize will be manicured, coiffured and perfectly shod for the event, packing up their South Africa-bound Louis Vuitton luggage with headline-grabbing bikinis.

And while many women are genuine football fans, what does soccer think of the fairer sex?

In advertising at least we’re brainless bimbos who only tune in to lust after Lucas Neill, drool over Dennis Aogo or have a crush on Kaka.

And who can forget the famous Top Shop poster of the 1980s showing Paul Gascoigne wincing as Vinny Jones clasps his delicate man bits in a sneaky clinch. A game for real men, eh? Ah where are they now? Mr Jones is an actor, don’t you know? Meanwhile, poor Gazza has hit the skids more times than we can mention.

And heaven forbid we’d ever understand the offside rule.

Well, not according to the current WKD billboard campaign which reads ‘How does a girl know it’s offside? The flag goes up’.

The marketing ‘wags’ who continue to bore us all with this unfunny stereotype obviously haven’t met my good friend and journalist colleague Maureen Coleman from the Belfast Telegraph who easily answered offside rules posed to her on a live radio show earlier this week. 1-0 to the girls.

But even the supposed good guys of football aren’t that open minded. Step forward Mr Gary Lineker. I interviewed the nation’s favourite crisp eater about 10 years ago when he was in Belfast, coincidentally a week after writing a feature on a women’s football team.

I asked the former England international and now Match of the Day presenter if he thought televised women’s football would ever take off. To which he replied ‘no’.

Currently Sky Sports screen live women’s football matches including the FA Cup final and Uefa Women’s Cup as well as other international games. Okay, they probably don’t pull in the viewers the men’s game does, but it has to be worthwhile or else why would Sky bother?

I told him the local female footballers thought the men’s game had become too fast, while their’s was more skilful. He replied in a Mandy Rice Davies way — ‘well they would say that wouldn’t they’.

Yet even football pundits agree there are many different styles within the game, particularly at the highest possible level.

And in a sport which is predominantly male — players, managers, coaches, stadium staff and directors (with a few high profile exceptions) — it seems to me football is a man’s world, geared round drinking culture, rowdy chants, shiny shirts and long-winded rants about how ‘we was robbed’.

So to all football-loving females, my advice is to wear your sporting colours with pride, have a great World Cup and teach the boys how a real fan behaves.

Belfast Telegraph

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