Women’s World Cup: Artificial cheerleading & constructed grievances

England’s women confirmed their passage to the knockout stages of the World Cup last night, with a 2-1 win over Colombia good enough to see them through to the last-sixteen.

Excellent news.

Unfortunately, though, yesterday was also the beginning of the inevitable backlash against the tournament.

Mercifully, misogyny has been in scarce supply over the past ten days and Canada 2015 has generally shown that, perhaps, the antiquated, unwelcome attitudes towards the women’s game are finally being marginalised.  In the main, those who have watched the tournament have enjoyed themselves and those who aren’t interested haven’t felt the need to prod at it from afar.

Sadly, though, a more clandestine offensive is under way.

“The Women’s World Cup is being patronised by disproportionate praise.”

That seems to be growing movement within the British sports media and it’s one which betrays old attitudes.  Superficially, of course, it’s a reasonable argument: the participating players in Canada don’t warrant applause just for effort and endeavour, they need to be held to some standard of achievement if the game is to retain its credibility.

But, of course that’s true and, to date, nobody has publicly denied that.

Similarly, there’s growing consternation over what it means not to be engaging with the competition and a familiar complaint is that those who are not tuning into the games are acting out of something more active than mere indifference.   It’s a straw-man argument, an overly-aggressive defence against a charge which hasn’t been made.

Nobody, either in print or in public, has claimed that not enjoying the Women’s World Cup is a symptom of prejudice.  Equally, at no point has it been mandated that everyone, irrespective of what they truly think, must be shaking their figurative poms-poms at all times.  The accusation seems to be that, threatened by the fear of moral judgement, viewers are affecting a cheerleading role and ignoring the footballing deficiencies in front of their eyes.

What a strange, strange point to make.

Think about this in relation to the men’s game: the Premier League is the land of hyperbole, a world in which the drama can never be overstated and the entertainment can never be over-emphasised.  We, as a nation, are so enthralled by our domestic league, that we are frequently oblivious to its deficiencies and willfully ignorant to its failings.

The consequences dwarf the realities.  When games fall-flat, there are no caveats about the standard of play or the aesthetic quality of the football itself, only total deference to the quasi-drama.  Supporters aren’t told, for instance, that their enthusiasm should be tempered by the technical standard, they are allowed - quite rightly - to focus on the winning and losing and the primitive appeal that lies at the heart of all sporting contests.

Next Summer, England’s men will almost certainly qualify for the European Championships in France.  At no point during that competition will anyone be told how to engage with it.  Enthusiasm for the national side will not be predicated on how they play or how many passes they complete, only on whether they win or lose.  Nobody will be castigated for getting caught up in the spectacle and neither will they be asked to justify why they are.

So what is the difference here?

Why, instead of just allowing the tournament to unfold naturally and letting the watching public respond to it as they wish, must it come with all these asterisks?  Why must those who are tuning in be continually reminded that, unless certain male-defined criteria are being met, they really shouldn’t be enjoying themselves?

That’s the problem: it all sounds very rational and fair until you realise that male sport would never be challenged in the same way.

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1 Comment on "Women’s World Cup: Artificial cheerleading & constructed grievances"

  1. This makes little, if any, sense. If you want to say you don’t like Martin Samuel as a writer, just say it.

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