Insert bad Cyndi Lauper pun here
Although you probably wouldn’t know it from the minuscule bit of coverage it has received thus far, the Women’s World Cup (of soccer) is currently underway in China. Since I don’t have cable at home, and the games have been broadcast in the middle of the night, I’m sad to say I haven’t seen any of the play beyond the usual highlight clips on YouTube.
But I have been very interested in the small bit of very good writing about the tournament that has made its way back here. Steve Goff of the Washington Post made the trip to China to follow the U.S. Women’s National Team’s exploits there, in the process offering a window into the East that we rarely get.
The stories that have captured my attention the most thus far are those that show the inequities that exist in world football. Even though few people really support the Americans here, they are the best team on the planet (rivaled perhaps only by Germany and, now, Brazil). Other nations treat their women’s teams the same way Americans treat all professional soccer–like a second-class sport fit only for the Third World.
Probably the best story I’ve seen on the growing pains of women’s football around the globe illustrates that better than most. It came in this excellent Al-Jazeera English piece on the slow rise of women’s soccer in Egypt (thanks to the late-to-the-game-but-increasingly-great Goal blog by the NY Times for the clip). Perhaps it’s unsurprising that no teams from the Middle East made it to China for this year’s tournament.
So the U.S. Women will face off against the Brazilian Samba Queens Thursday in the Cup’s semi-finals. A win against Brazil (nearly unthinkable for the men’s squad), and the team will book a slot in the finals, likely against its nemesis Germany. I think there’s really no downside to the expanding popularity, and skill, of the women’s game. But as Steve Goff reported today the glass ceiling isn’t just an obstacle for women in corporate America. The winners of the Women’s World Cup will receive a mere fraction of the prize money that the Italian men took home last summer.
As entertaining as the games in China may be, we’ve still got a long way to go.