Sian Massey, Karen Brady, Delia Smith – most football supporters would be hard pressed to name any other women in top flight football…
The only other name that might spring to mind – thanks to the prime time television and media coverage afforded to women’s football by The London 2012 Olympics is England and UK national ladies coach Hope Powell. Powell who has had her advanced coaching badges for over a decade, but never been approached to coach a men’s team, despite being on public record as harbouring a desire to do so.
In this age of modern football, with football clubs viewed as purely big business by many owners, where anything goes for a fast buck and media interest, a female coach is overdue – if only for publicity sake. Despite this, there still remains not one female on the coaching staff of any of the 92 football league clubs.
Those females which are part of the men’s game tend to be ridiculed – Sian Massey is singled out for sexist taunts when she runs the line and was famously the subject of an on-air tirade by football pundits Richard Keys and Andy Grey – who concurred before the game had even kicked off that Massey would ‘have a howler because even female officials don’t know the offside rule!’
A YouTube video of Sian being clattered into and flattened by Cardiff City defender Kevin MacNaughton, while chasing a ball, is the subject of much titillation – with suggestions that the Bluebirds own Silver Fox had done it on purpose for a bet, having to be repeatedly refuted by both the player and the club.
This is bad enough, but even worse is when a female taking even the slightest interest in football suffers because of her fellow sex and their attitudes. A point which was hammered home on twitter this Sunday when it was the subject of a takeover by One Direction fans.
The cause of this foray was 1D’s Louis Tomlinson, who signed as a professional for his home team of Doncaster Rovers during the transfer window as part of Sky’s programme of visiting all 92 English Football League clubs in a day.
A fact in itself which the more cynical amongst us would say is yet another prime example of the anything for media coverage mentality currently so in-vogue in football. His signing also just so happened to coincide with the cinematic release of a film about the band.
Tomlinson, 21, was playing in Stiliyan Petrov’s televised charity match at Celtic’s Parkhead when Gabriel Agbonlahor clattered into the star leaving him in a heap on the floor and clutching his knee. On getting to his feet looking very dazed and limping heavily, Tomlinson discovered he was being substituted before being physically sick on the pitch, to the screams of horror from a large portion of crowd – mostly young girls who were there solely to watch him play.
They had screamed and cheered every time Tomlinson got the ball, while the male portion of the crowd booed his every touch. The boos weren’t a reflection on the pop star come footballer -who was due to make his professional debut for Doncaster on Wednesday in a reserve match – he’d looked lively and skilful. Instead, they were caused by the sheer frustration of supporters, as even stray passes were being whooped at, and when Agbonlahor made the mistimed tackle which floored the One Direction singer, he was clapped and cheered wildly by the same section of ‘real’ football fans.
Reaction to the incident was immediate – Twitter became awash with get well soon messages for Tomlinson along with personal attacks on and death threats towards Agbonlahor. Anyone who leapt to Agbonlahor’s defence, telling the distraught 1D fans that tackling was part of the game and allowed, were also attacked.
One tweet stood out: “Louis Tomlinson got 1000s Of girls 2 WATCH FOOTBALL bet U can’t get UR Girlfriend 2 play fifa wiv U.”
Wrong on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to start?
The whole incident gave ammunition and opportunity for those with set in stone attitudes to once again trot out the same old tired lines that females are clueless and only interested in football for superficial reasons.
For the tens of thousands of proper female fans, who sit come rain or shine in support of their team, this was a massive kick in the teeth, to be denigrated by their own sex when the fight to be taken seriously is hard enough.
Comments of get back to your knitting – you’d be better sticking to Emmerdale love, are common asides, even sometimes from the fellow ‘home’ supporters whose respect a real footy girl has worked hard to earn.
Also, much of female consensus still seems to be that girls only watch football for the ‘fit lads’ and that football is a boring, stupid game, just for butch girls or airheaded, gold digging wannabes WAGs craving a celebrity lifestyle. Bitchy comments are also commonly aimed at footy girls by jealous girlfriends and wives with no interest themselves in football.
Just to make it clear, I harbour no ill feeling to anyone who doesn’t get football – of either sex. I have male family members and friends who don’t get football and my Mum was always very vocal about not liking football herself, but she loved many other sports and she knew the game inside out – more than a lot of men.
While she loved to watch the pomp and spectacle of the World Cup, the week in, week out game did not interest her in the slightest – she would sit and read while my dad and I watched Match of the Day, repeatedly asking “how much longer is this on for?” This aside, she never tried to dissuade me from my passion for the beautiful game – choosing instead to encourage and support me.
If ‘footy girls’ still struggle to be respected as mere supporters, what hope is there of getting more women into the top jobs in football?
I’d like to throw this idea out to the TV and media moguls out there – take me, fast track me through my coaching badges, film me every step of the way, then put me in charge of an English football league team and watch them fly!
I fear until that sort of show is made, we will continue to wait for our first female coach in the men’s game – and what does that say about football?
Do you think we will ever get a female coach in the Premier League? Comment below or tweet us @LaFootyettes.