Written by Ruby Hinchliffe
Illustrated by Tyler Misha
This weekend we saw a very different kind of football victory for the USA women’s team. Not only did they win the Fifa Women’s World Cup, but their sold out performance in Lyon was tuned in by record numbers of fans across the globe. It’s officially a new era for women’s football.
In England’s quarter-final against Norway, 80% of Norwegians cheered on their team, glued to their television screens.
What followed was the UK vs USA semi-final which recorded 11.7 million British viewers alone. This match is now the most watched television program of the year in the UK.
Sports columnist Rebecca Myers revelled in the tripled numbers of journalists at this semi-final match, particularly astounded by how many men were seriously discussing tactics ahead of an all-female game.
“Of all the sexist stereotypes about sport, the most enduring is that of the beleaguered wife, mother or girlfriend who can’t stand football but is subjected to it by their male partner.”Rebecca Myers
A familiar image, but now times have changed.
Now it’s my mother who calls me shouting: “Cor blimey, are you watching this Cameroon match too?! Switch it on right now.”
It was her enthusiasm which got me interested in this Women’s World Cup, and it was her broad knowledge which got me clued up about all the exciting developments since 2015.
Of course, we should remind ourselves that women’s football – whilst breaking rapid ground – is still leaps and bounds behind the men’s.
The women’s prize money is set to double to 60 million in 2023, but male players still get six times as much, taking home a whopping 400 million.
It’s no wonder then that the USA’s co-captain Megan Rapinoe has been the face of all that’s still political about women’s football.
Fans at the final chanted ‘Equal pay! Equal pay!’ to the purple-haired player, who has snubbed a visit to the Whitehouse to meet Trump, has shared her LGBTQ+ allegiances this Pride month and has publicly criticised football’s governing body for not respecting women’s football.
These women aren’t just playing for themselves, they’re playing for all the people men’s football has left behind.
So, lets have a look at some of the players who have made women’s football so proud this year.
Megan Rapinoe, 34, USA
She scored the opener in Sunday’s final, won the Golden Boot and was named official Fifa player of the match at Lyon. Rapinoe scored six goals in just five matches this world cup which has earnt her first place on the Fifa leader board.
Samantha Kerr, 25, Australia
Kerr pelted in the first goal in their game against Italy. To celebrate she threw some jabs at the corner flag, mimicking fellow Australian player Tim Cahill. Following close on Rapinoe’s heels, Kerr has scored five goals in just four matches. She also plays for Chicago Red Stars in the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League).
Chrestinah Thembi Kgatlana, 23, South Africa
Kgatlana is African Player of the Year and her time came when she scored her first goal in the World Cup against Spain. She recently returned to her former school, speaking to screaming student fans about the importance of balancing sport with a healthy education. Often she’s found in her career that one is a cost for the other.
Kadeisha Buchanan, 23, Canada
Centre-back Buchanan scored the winning goal against Cameroon early on in the world cup. She grew up with 10 siblings in a one-parent household, before making her debut on the field at just 17. Now she’s an international footballer representing brands such as Nike and MasterCard.
Sari van Veenendaal, 29, Netherlands
Veenendaal won the Golden Glove this year and put up a healthy fight against the USA in the final, coming out with a double save for her team leading Fifa to name her player of the match. In the Netherlands’ six world cup matches in France, Veenendaal only conceded three goals.
Ellen Toni White, 30, England
Scoring the opening goal in England’s game against Scotland, Lioness White then went on to score twice against Japan. Her discounted penalty in England’s last game against the USA sparked a big uproar at VAR, adding to the already established debate on whether it enhances or ruins the game. Her goal scoring record this tournament has led to comparisons with England captain Harry Kane.
Marta Vieira da Silva, 33, Brazil
Known simply as Marta, this long-serving football champion has won Fifa World Player of the Year six times. Dubbed ‘Pele in skirts’ by Pele himself, the Brazilian player has also won silver medals in the Summer Olympics. She was head-hunted at the age of just 14 by well-known Brazilian female coach, Helena Pacheco.
Ajara Nchout Njoya, 26, Cameroon
In the 96th minute of Cameroon’s match against New Zealand, the score 1-1, Njoya managed to score into the far corner and get her team into the last 16 of this year’s world cup. Despite being put off football by her family and told to focus on her education, the Cameroon player stuck to her convictions and is now an international name in her sport.
Kanjana Sungngoen, 32, Thailand
Thailand’s forward, Sungngoen, scored their only goal of the match against Sweden. Described by Fifa as ‘a lethal attacking weapon’, the ten-year-career veteran scored twice as Thailand beat Vietnam 2-1, earning them an historic World Cup appearance in Canada four years ago.
Alexandra Patricia Morgan Carrasco, 30, USA
USA team captain has scored 107 international goals for her team. With her team smack bang in the thick of world cup madness, July 2nd, Morgan didn’t lose sight of the prize. She scored five goals against Thailand, equalling the Wold Cup record set in 1991 by Michelle Akers. She has also launched a book series called The Kicks for middle-grade students and starred as a fictional version of herself in the film Alex & Me.
Fifa announced they are looking to cast a wider net for the next World Cup, hoping to look beyond Europe and take 24 women’s teams to 32 four years from now.
However, many feel incredulous at these projections, largely because the quality around the world just isn’t there yet.
We saw this when the USA team played Thailand and won 13-0.
Whopping goal differences like this are a result of the lack of investment made into countries outside Europe and America.
They need to invest in countries such as Thailand so an infrastructure for women’s football can exist and flourish at these global tournaments from all over the world.
Fifa President Gianni Infantino plans to double investment into women’s football to £400 million over the next four years.
One of the ways Infantino hopes to expose more teams to World Cup level football is to develop club football.
“We need a Club World Cup which can be played every year to expose clubs from all over the world, to make clubs invest even more in women’s football to really shine on a world stage.”Gianni Infantino
It’s impossible not to feel a genuine pang of hope at all these changes for the good of the women’s game.
Let’s continue to break stereotypes, chant for equal pay and scream on our women as they win new ground for all of us.