miércoles, 10 de junio de 2015

Las Cafeteras Wake Up the World

This guest post by Daniel Thacker, sports editor of Epigram, is part 6 of our joint blog series on the Women’s World Cup with Women, Work, Value
Part 1: Matthew Brown and Josie McLellan, How to Watch the World Cup?
Join us for a Twitter chat on these issues on Thursday June 11, 2015, 8pm-9pm BST. #WatchWWC   

Las Cafeteras Wake Up the World
For Colombia, it was progress. While Las Cafeteras’ 1-1 draw with Mexico in Group F is hardly the most eye-catching result from the early stages of the World Cup, the point, secured with nine minutes remaining thanks to Daniela Montoya’s brilliant strike, leaves the South Americans with a good chance of reaching the knockout phase for the first time ever. There is a bullishness, particularly in Colombia, which makes one believe that the sueño en Canadá (dream in Canada) that the Twitter account (@FCPoderosas) so brazenly boasts about might actually become a reality.
While it may seem presumptuous for the young, inexperienced side to be dreaming of qualification from a group which also includes European heavyweights France and England, there was little about the way this Colombian outfit confidently went about their business in the Moncton Stadium on Tuesday evening to indicate they were out of their depth. Indeed, the country’s maiden World Cup goal was more than merited after an enterprising attacking display in which Las Chicas Superpodorosas hit the woodwork and had a goal disallowed for offside.
If the performance served as a wake-up call to the rest of the world not to underestimate Felipe Taborda’s hard-running troops, it came as no surprise back home in Colombia, which has been gripped by football fever for weeks. Only days before the male Copa América begins, one of the country’s major football websites, Futbolred.com, devoted its entire homepage to the women’s World Cup campaign, with previews of the Mexico clash and interviews with captain Natalia Gaitán and Oriánica Velásquez. Leading dailies El Tiempo and El Espectador followed suit, with several articles on the country’s opening match in their sport sections.
Yet while the prevailing mood pre-match was bullish, it was tinged with an unmistakeable nervousness. After all, despite finishing as runners-up at the 2014 Copa América, when only a stalemate against Brazil prevented them lifting the trophy, Colombia managed one point in their solitary previous World Cup appearance, Germany 2011, and that courtesy of a 0-0 draw with North Korea – departing the tournament without scoring. Indeed, even having developed into CONMEBOL’s second-best side over recent years, they slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Mexico as recently as November.
That nervousness was only heightened when El Tri took the lead in the 36th minute through Veronica Pérez. Yet, inspired by goalscorer Montoya and playmaker Yoreli Rincón, Colombia remained in control, defending like the side which only conceded twice in seven games at the Copa América and attacking with the verve and ebullience which mark out Rincón and Velásquez not so much as stars of the future but as stars of the here and now.

With one of the tournament favourites, France, having burst out of the blocks and beaten an out-of-sorts England 1-0, essentially securing qualification, it is now a three-horse race to reach the last 16 from Group F between the Colombians, the Mexicans and the English. However, with four of the best third-placed teams from the six groups qualifying for the knockouts, a positive result against either the French on Saturday or the English the following Wednesday could pave the way to the promised land.
Despite Taborda’s expectation-dampening insistence that ‘against the Europeans, we will be inferior in some areas,’ back in Colombia they’ll tune in. After all, futbolred.com’s most shared article on Wednesday evening was the minute-by-minute report of the game in which Las Cafeteras scored their first World Cup goal. Imagine what’ll happen when they record their first win.

martes, 9 de junio de 2015

Central European axis hope to convert club clout to Women’s World Cup success

Central European axis hope to convert club clout to Women’s World Cup success

This guest post by broadcaster and journalist Andy Brassell is part 5 of our joint blog series on the Women’s World Cup with Women, Work and Value
Part 1: Matthew Brown and Josie McLellan, How to Watch the World Cup?
Join us for a Twitter chat on these issues on Thursday June 11, 2015, 8pm-9pm BST. #WatchWWC           

Central European axis hope to convert club clout to Women’s World Cup success

More than one of the expanded field of 24 at the Women’s World Cup will travel to Canada with the intention of righting a few wrongs. After Japan spoiled Germany’s party to spectacular effect four years ago, Die Nationalelf will attempt to hit back on the artificial surfaces in North America this summer.

Germany - winners in 2003 and 2007 before being surprisingly unseated on home turf by the Japanese - again seem like Europe’s best chance of success, followed by France, arguably the European nation that has made the greatest strides in the women’s game over the past five to ten years. Over the next month or so, we’ll see how far the rising central European axis of power in club football is beginning to translate to the international stage.

In this particular arena, there is still little comparison between the neighbours. This will be Germany’s seventh appearance in the finals, but only France’s second. Les Bleues, however, managed fourth place backin 2011 on their tournament bow. Expectation has grown so quickly that the quarter-final defeat in Euro 2013 to Denmark on penalties was seen as a huge disappointment (the tournament was won by Germany for an eighth time). This time, they are to be taken seriously under coach Philippe BergarooHis pedigree from the men’s game, winning Euro 84 as a player and coaching the Under-17s to the 2004 Euro title, “counts for a lot for us,” midfielder Camille Abily told L’Equipe this week.

Germany and France are already serious rivals at club level. FFC Frankfurt’s dramatic late UEFA Women’s Champions League (UWCLfinal win over Paris Saint-Germain last month was a clash between authentic heavyweights, on a landscape that is evolving apace. Again, there is catching up to do. It was Frankfurt’s fourth title going back to the tournament’s original inception as the UEFA Women’s Cup in 2001 - it was rebranded as the UEFA Women’s Champions League (UWCL) in 2009The whole history of the competition is German-dominated, with two wins apiece for Turbine Postdam and Wolfsburg, and one for Freiburg.

Yet the only nation to realistically compete in recent times is France, with Olympique Lyonnais winning in 2011 and 2012 as part of a sequence of four successive final appearances. Lyon remain the undisputed leaders of the French game, with this season's league and cup double meaning that the Rhone-Alpes club have been champions nine times in a row. Yet heavy investment from PSG’s Qatari owners means that the capital club are closing the gap, and they defeated Lyon in the last 16 of this year’s UWCL.

Annike Krahn and Josephine Henning, both in Silvia Neid’s Germany squad for the finals, are among Paris’ marquee names. Lyon, meanwhile, made 20-year-old defender Griedge Mbock – voted player of the tournament in the 2012 Women’s Under-17 World Cup, which her France team won - the most expensive transfer in French league history recently when they signed her from Guingamp for a fee of over€100,000. The big pair mean business.

This is especially pertinent in this World Cup, not just in terms of the growing prestige of the women’s game, but because the big two dominate Bergaroo’groupHis 23-strong group includes ten from Lyonand a further six from PSG. If progress in the French women’s game has its roots in shared use of the lauded academy facilities at Clairefontaine, the ready-made complicity fostered by the use of large numbers of players from the same club (or two) is what has allowed rapid advancement for the national team.

For Germany, the strength in depth of the domestic game – so apparent in the scale and support for the 2011 tournament  is only increasing, and is evident in a diverse squad. Another giant from the men’s game, Bayern Munich, is set to make an impact in Europe after a historic league and cup double win this season. Already, Frankfurt’s star Spanish playmaker Verónica Boquete has left for Bayern.

Elsewhere Jackie Groenen’s move from Chelsea to Frankfurt as anominal replacement for Boquete – ahead of a period in which the London club are expected to strengthen significantly – is a reminder of just how far the English game has to catch up to its central European neighbours, status-wise and financially.

Sweden, thought of as a traditional pillar of the women’s game (and achievers of third place in 2011), lack the sort of domestic strength to grow. After Umea’s titles in 2003 and 2004 (and subsequent final lossesin 2007 and 2008), it wasn’t until last year that there was again Swedish representation in the UWCL final, with Tyresö beaten by Wolfsburg in Lisbon. This was an exception, with the club recruiting stars such as Marta and Caroline Seger and racking up huge debts in the process, which led to their demise shortly after the final. The national team’sstandout player, the prolific Lotta Schelin, has played her club football with Lyon since 2008.

Schelin represents one of the biggest threats to Europe’s big two making their presence felt. It may well take some individual brilliance from elsewhere to blow Germany and France off course.

jueves, 4 de junio de 2015

Watch Brazil in 2015 As You Watched Brazil in 2014

This guest post by Brenda Elsey is part 4 of our joint blog series on the Women’s World Cup with Women, Work and Value
Part 1: Matthew Brown and Josie McLellan, How to Watch the World Cup?
Join us for a Twitter chat on these issues on Thursday June 11, 2015, 8pm-9pm BST. #WatchWWC           

Watch Brazil in 2015 As You Watched Brazil in 2014


The Brazilian team that will face South Korea on June 9th is a very interesting mix of familiar and new faces.  This is not entirely different than the Brazilian men’s team in 2014.  In the case of women, however, to be a “veteran” means having watched decades of unfulfilled promises to improve the terms of women’s participation.   Supporters of women’s clubs in Brazil have tried, and failed, to create a stable professional league, obtain adequate funding, and raise the profile of athletes.  Being a veteran also means they’ve helped to achieve important milestones, including securing a training camp and medical personnel.  In addition to their accomplishments on the field, in other words, the “veterans” of the 2015 squad have been involved in administration and mentoring in a way that male stars have not. 

The high level of support for and interest in the Brazilian men’s team has not translated into greater support for the women’s side.  This is not for lack of interest or talent among female athletes.  While not quite as successful as their male counterparts, the Brazilian women's national team boasts a respectable record and some of the world’s finest players.   Given the official prohibition on women’s football between the 1940s and the 1970s, the perseverance of the athletes to establish a viable professional league and national program is all the more impressive.  The Brazilian women’s teams have won the most Copa Americas, six of seven, and have achieved the best results of any South American women’s contingent in international play, with a third place finish in the 1999 World Cup and a second place finish in the 2007 World Cup.  The team has also won two silver medals in Olympic tournaments.  They have been the only South American women’s side that poses a threat to the world’s top teams. 

Given the footballing success that the Brazilian national women’s team has achieved, it is surprising that this is the first permanent women’s national team, with a real “training camp.”  Moreover, this year’s coach Vadão, though untested as of yet, seems to have a genuine rapport with the players.  Although he is known for cultivating the talents of some legendary players, including Kaká, Vadão is a somewhat controversial hire, given his spotty performance in the professional leagues of Brazil.  Vadão may be showing a willingness to change things up on the roster.  Notably, he appears to have left behind Daiane Menezes Rodrigues.  Daiane may be feeling the backlash of her own goal and missed penalty kick in Brazil’s loss to the United States, which knocked Brazil out of the 2011 competition.

If we based predictions on the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup, Brazil stands a good chance to make it out of their group, but not much further.  However, there are a few dynamics of this team that are inspiring, and possibly will help propel them forward in the tournament.  The first, is the balance of experience and youth.  The team is anchored, in spirit and play, by midfielder Miraildes Maciel Mota, better known as Formiga, which is the Portuguese word for ant.  Formiga is in her twentieth year on the national team, at the age of 37. Her intelligence will surely be central to the game plan of the team.  She works beautifully with forwards Cristiane, Marta, and Debinha.  Sadly, Debinha will sit out the tournament having suffered a knee injury.  

Formiga can be an effective playmaker for Brazil. She has deep knowledge of international strategies and players, so she can “read” teams quickly.  This can be a huge advantage, if she can marshal the support of her young teammates in defence.   Her partner in this effort will most certainly be Marta, who will be playing in her fourth World Cup. Marta is one of the most talented players in the history of the game, and she can act as an assurance to young players like Andressa. If Marta is on her game no one can intimidate her.  She recently scored an impressive hat-trick against the U.S. with Hope Solo in goal.  The U.S., Japan, and Germany, no doubt are the favourites in this tournament, but Brazil shouldn’t be underestimated.

There’s a larger point, I argue, about “How to Watch the Women’s World Cup,” which is that we mistakenly assume that it should somehow be approached differently than the men’s World Cup.  Women and men play together all the time in Brazil, although women haven’t had nearly the same opportunities.  Marta played almost exclusively on boys’ teams until nearly adulthood.  Football is integrated into all aspects of Brazilian social life, especially family gatherings.  It should not be surprising that the styles of play in the national repertoire aren’t entirely different.  Formiga cites the midfielder Dunga as her inspiration.  They both represent a version of Brazilian football that favours slower and less physical play.  Formiga’s timing is quite similar to Dunga’s, meaning she tends to avoid contact with other midfielders.  This could be playing to one’s strengths, in the sense that they are smaller statured players.  We shouldn’t assume, though women haven’t been credited, that they don’t influence the national game.  We should afford the women’s team in 2015 the same optimism we afforded the men’s in 2014.

martes, 2 de junio de 2015

Rise Like a Phoenix: the history of women’s football and the Women’s World Cup 1869-2015

This GUEST POST by JEAN WILLIAMS forms part of a collaboration with the Women, Work, Value network. See the first post 'How to Watch the World Cup' by Matthew Brown + Josie McLellan here.

When Panini stickers issued its first edition for the Women’s World Cup in 2011 in Germany, it was hailed by many as progress and an important innovation. Like Hope Solo appearing on Dancing with the Stars, the Panini range was considered an encouraging sign that women stars were moving beyond sport into the cultural industries. But are what appear to be ‘firsts’ really markers of progress? Should we consider how continuity can be as important as change? How does change differ from progress? And what vital role does history play in public perceptions of female sport?
The simple thesis for my blog post is that recovering the history is so crucial because, without this evidence we accept the chronology constructed by governing bodies who, for a long time, have considered women’s sporting interests beneath their contempt. The historiography of football has tended to neglect women’s contribution to the sport based on the gendered labour markets developed by the FA (Football Association) in 1863 and the professional game since the mid 1880s. The world governing body FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) formed in 1904 but oversaw women’s football only since 1969.
However, the increasing academic study of football as part of the wider cultural and entertainment industries, is now beginning to nuance this picture. In the August 1869 edition of Harper’s Bazaar, a group of fashionably dressed young women were shown kicking a football about with great verve, and holding off their opponents in pursuit of the ball.[1] Subtitled, ‘The Girls of the Period-Playing Ball’ this illustration suggests that ‘kick-abouts’ or ‘pick-up’ games could involve girls and women as well as men and boys at this time.
Few popular or academic historians now write about the history of World War One without acknowledging that football was a big part of the story of sport maintaining morale on the Home Front. The Arts and Humanities Research Council, the BBC and Imperial War Museums ran a project World War One At Home which highlighted women’s changing lives.[2] Increasingly, the effect of the conflict and ensuing peace on European women’s sport and leisure are receiving the attention that they deserve.[3]
The FA changed the culture of world football in 1921 when it issued a ban on women’s football. This redefined men’s football as much as the game for women. The ban was in response to large paying crowds of up to 55,000, mainly comprised of working men, who routinely supported women playing football and paid to do so. This speaks to the myth that women’s sport is not, in itself, as lucrative as a sporting spectacle as men’s sport. Rather it was the threat of the popularity of women’s football that resulted in the ban. The ban was not supported by all national football associations, but the idea was influential for the next fifty years.
When FIFA, very grudgingly, took control of the women’s game in 1969, it then delayed a women’s world championship tournament until 1991. The first FIFA Women’s World Championship was held in PR China in 1991 with twelve national teams. Perhaps surprisingly, FIFA insisted that the hosting country should make no money from the occasion, but guaranteed that the national football association would not suffer a financial loss either.
This effectively defined women’s football as an amateur spectacle rather than a professional mega event. There were 26 matches in total, with 5 double-headers so 21 matches were hosted in stadia at Tianhe (4 matches, with a capacity of 30,000 spectators per match); Provincial (4 matches, capacity 15,000 per match); Panyu (4 matches, capacity 10,000 per match); Jiangmen (3 matches, capacity 10,000 per match), Nanhai (3 matches, capacity 10,000 per match) and Zhongshan (3 matches, capacity 10,000 per match).
FIFA used the symbolic phoenix, indicating beauty in Chinese culture, as the key theme for the opening ceremony and the trophy. However, officials were not convinced of the public appetite for the competition, as 124,000 of the total 310,000 tickets, priced at just one US dollar, were given away gratis. The confectionary company Mars, which was keen to enter the Chinese market at the time, sponsored the tournament with its M&Ms brand.
As part of a continuing campaign to integrate PR China into world football, the country also hosted the 2007 Women's World Cup. The United States has held two Women’s World Cup competitions in 1999 and 2003. Sweden hosted the Women’s World Cup in 1995 and an Olympic Games tournament first showcased women’s football at Atlanta in 1996. Thereafter, Sydney; Athens, Beijing and London became important milestones in the cross-cultural transfer of Olympic women’s football. Women’s World Cup, hosted by Germany in 2011 was intended as a record-breaking all-female sports tournament in Europe.
Women constitute less then ten per cent of football players today, with some countries still not perceiving the sport as ‘suitable’ for female spectators and players. Female administrators, owners, medical experts, lawyers, player agents, media specialists are all marginalized by the formal and informal processes of world football. So, is it the global game? The symbolic gesture of playing Women’s World Cup Football on artificial turf suggests not.
Just as the 2015 Panini stickers are part of a much longer history of cultural representation of women’s football, I also hope we can see that the media scape in which Canada 2015 takes place is as important to our understanding as sport. As US player Meg Rapinoe has indicated in her blog, FIFA made a $338 million profit on the 2014 Men’s World Cup in Brazil, to say that it is not logistically possible to install real grass in all of the stadiums for the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, is clearly not accurate.[4]
So what symbolic gender differences are being expressed, if money is no object? Women’s football remains second-rate, ‘other’ to malestream soccer and is still being undermined by the governing bodies who claim to be promoting it. It’s no accident that some of the strongest nations for women’s football (the US, China, Norway, more recently Japan and South Korea) are countries without traditionally strong male football cultures. It’s also likely that England will never host a future men’s or women’s world cup, given the FA’s continuing snobbery about its centrality to the world game. The FA seems to have forgotten that the rest of the world has moved on.
I await the first female President of FIFA with some anticipation. I hope that she will be an admirable woman who will appoint her colleagues on the basis of competence rather than gender and will replace the 'little men in grey suits' who currently run the world game. Even more, I look forward to a time when gender is one of many differences celebrated in and through the world game, that better reflects global diversity.
Jean Williams @jeanmwilliams 

[1] Chris Ungar, http://thehistoryofwomensfootball.com/index.html, accessed 14 May 2015.
[2] See ‘Highfield Road Coventry: The Rise of Women’s Football’ World War One At Home http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02b2j88, first broadcast 6 November 2014.