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Post World Cup: A celebration of the beautiful game — or just men who play it?

July 14, 2010 – 8:51 AM

By Rachael Goldenberg

I had the thrilling opportunity to watch the World Cup Final at the Soweto Fan Park in South Africa on Monday. Yes, the vuvuzela howls are deafening, but I still cheered alongside 10,000 South Africans as Spain kicked in the winning goal against the Netherlands (my friend Robin from San Fransisco was rooting for the Netherlands — see photo).

It is not that I – or my South African hosts – are huge Spanish soccer fans. In fact, most of the South Africans I spoke with had little knowledge of the individual teams, but agreed that World Cup fever had swept their country. Everywhere you look, soccer images line the streets. From soda cans to billboards, you cannot escape FIFA’s domination.

Certainly, the World Cup has brought together a divided nation and given the rest of the globe a fresh lens through which to view what I am finding to be an inspiring country.

But one thing has struck me: This lens – and FIFA in particular — has filtered out and excluded (sometimes ridiculously so) the female athletic experience. This was an opportunity for all athletes to celebrate this sport. But we only saw half the picture.

Nowhere in the city do you see ads with little girls playing soccer and nowhere do you hear the voice of a female commentator. Does FIFA mean to suggest that the World Cup only inspires little boys? Are the sports networks telling us no women are qualified to provide commentary or reportage?

And in what would be a natural plug for it’s next major event, FIFA was stunningly silent about the fact that next year’s Women’s World Cup is in Germany. Disturbingly, the only fact my South African and American peers could recall about the Women’s World Cup when I asked them was “that one time that women took her shirt off.”

Do we need a woman in a sports bra – Brandi Chastain – to bring attention to women’s soccer? Without engaging yet another debate on sexy athletes, let’s instead pose the fair question: Is the World Cup truly a celebration of the beautiful game – or just the celebration of men who play it?

Rachael roots for Spain while her friend Robin (obviously) pulls for Netherlands

World Cup crowds on Monday night

  1. One Response to “Post World Cup: A celebration of the beautiful game — or just men who play it?”

  2. Hello! Rachel,

    You certainly have a true journalistic bend, expressed a well thought out opinion, while endearing yourself to a new culture and enjoying your first World Cup soccer as a spectator. I’d like to add that pro soccer in America is still not well received so I think appreciation for women’s pro soccer will lag until that interest swells to FIFA levels. Keep smiling!

    By Dawn from Rochester, NY on Jul 20, 2010

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