Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Ladies lead the way

Japan lift their first Women's Wold Cup trophy

"I wasn't really a fan before the world cup, in fact I didn't really think of it at all. But after today I'm in!" ~ Random guy at the Football Factory bar in Toronto
Sunday's epic Women's World Cup final between the United States and Japan was on of the best played, and most exciting games of football I've watched all year. I just wanted to get that out before I continued.

It was everything a cup final should be. Two teams maybe not as evenly matched on paper, but were the two in form sides heading into the final. What we got was a treat, two sides that respected the game and each other enough to bring everything they had to the pitch...and left it there. The match ended in the cruelest way any final could end, but penalties were just and the team that deserved to win lifted the trophy.

The final itself was a fitting reflection on the success of the tournament as a whole. Well played, well organized well watched and attended. We saw what at times was sorely lacking the the men's World Cup of 2010, competitive spirit. There were few games at the WWC which you could label as boring, or poorly played, I could name at least 4 from South Africa 2010. One of the most impressive things I took away from watching the women's game was the lack of whining and diving that continues to plague the men's game. Funny enough I was watching the World Cup final at the same time as Brazil took on Paraguay in the Copa America, the amount of cheating and unsportsman like play in the Copa game made it completely unwatchable. After 30 minutes I focused my attention solely on the women's final.

Although I ended up disappointed that Canada did not advance out of the group stage, it gave me a chance to view the women's game from a neutral point of view. I gained an appreciation for the skill of the players which has jumped light years ahead from when I last paid attention to the WWC in 2003. I also noticed that FIFA finally gave the tournament the media push it needed. This was the first tournament in which every game was carried on network T.V (CBC/Rogers Sportsnet in Canada, ESPN in the U.S). Christine Sinclair who I have been touting as Canada's best soccer player men's or women's for a while now, became an instant Canadian sports icon for busting her nose then curing in a sublime free kick against Germany. The Canadian sports press never gives a female athlete that kind of coverage unless it's an Olympic year or they are a hockey player, and even then most of the articles are condescending. However coverage of Sinclair was about the sport and not about the sex.

Has the women's game turned the corner into mainstream popularity? Based on the ratings of the final and the record smashing tweets per minute one would lean towards yes, but we will only truly know at London 2012. If the games are as well attended and well watched then yes, women's football has turned the corner. If not...well there's always World Cup 2015 in the good Dominion of Canada to look forward to...


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