The World Cup soccer currently going on in Canada has seen Brazil being knocked out of the tournament, quite unlike last year, when they were thrashed 1-7 by Germany, on home soil. However, not many know that their defeat to Australia in the second round was very narrow. Yes, it is the FIFA Women’s World Cup and unlike the men’s game, the Indian media is least bothered about it.
It is one of the biggest events in women’s football. Qualification is not handed out – the 24 teams that are competing in this edition have come through a playoff round featuring 134 teams – that is more than 10 times the number of teams that play cricket. It is the first time that 24 teams are competing, earlier it was only limited to 16.
One reason that nobody is paying attention to it is because it is women who are playing the game. In a liberated world, women are inferior to men in no way – education, intellect, acumen, etc – just mere physical difference cannot be the standard bearer.
If anyone has seen the FIFA Women’s World Cup this year, they will know the skills that have been displayed by some of the top players — Marta of Brazil, Hope Solo of the US — and they are in no way inferior to men. Football has always attracted audiences through its silky skills, movement and speed and not physical strength. Another reason is that most of the sports’ audience are men and they are not interested in watching women in action.
The tournament first started in 1991 with China hosting the inaugural edition. USA won the first championship, beating Norway, in the final. The most attractive part of the World Cup is that every team is equally competitive. The winners’ list throughout its 24-year history is a testament to that. Only two European teams have won the competition — Germany and Norway. Latin American teams have not won a single edition. Even Japan, considered as minnows in the men’s game, have been world champions.
Already into the knockout stages, the tournament has already seen big guns such as Brazil, Spain, Sweden and Colombia crash out. Hosts Canada, England, France, Germany, Japan and Australia have made it to the next round.
And the players have, no doubt, raised the level of performance as well. Brazilian player Marta with 15 goals holds the record for scoring most goals in the World Cup. She was chosen as the FIFA World Player of the Year (Women), five times. In this World Cup also, she showed her class, but lost to Australia in the pre-quarter. Incidentally, at 30 she might not get a chance to play another tournament.
Birgit Prinz of Germany and Abby Wambach of the US, are legends of women’s soccer. Brazilian Formiga and Homare Sawa of Japan, hold the record for most appearances in World Cup tournaments, having played every edition since its inception in 1991. Irish woman Stephanie Roch, finished second to James Rodriguez, in the 2014 Puskas Award, for the best goal, relegating Robin Van Persie, to the third spot.
Fran Kirby, 21, of England is the most appreciated player in this year’s edition. Due to her style and performance, media is now calling her ‘Mini Messi’. England’s hope of winning the tournament for the first time rests with her.
Lieke Martan of the Netherlands, is the stalwart of the national side and one of the best finds of the tournament. German forward Anja Mittag is leading the chart of top scorers, with five goals.
Women sports have always been given a step-motherly treatment, which is extremely unfair, considering the efforts put in by each and every player. It is also about competing against each other and giving your best. Women sports personalities get rarely applauded, with the exception of sports like, lawn tennis, athletics and badminton. Sports journalist Martin Samuel, describe it as, “No pats on the back just for playing. No patronising applause for turning up, or having a go, or doing your best”.