The Kickoff: Women's football is the winner
Whether Netherlands takes the Cup or the USA, effectively, it’s a message to say that the women in football have arrived to stay.
Sunday, July 7, 8.30 pm IST, Netherlands will take on the defending champions USA in the eighth edition of the FIFA Women’s Football World Cup in Lyon, France. USA, the three-time winner, have an exceptionally strong squad out there. The Netherlands, on the other hand, is riding on the waves of a surging European feminist football culture that has drawn increased investments and nurturing, enabling it to improve its performance manifold. Ranked eighth in the world, they are going to be playing in their first ever World Cup final match, in their second year of participation in the tournament. And that with an immensely talented team.
Netherlands' Merel Van Dongen celebrates with the flag after the final whistle Netherlands v Sweden - FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 - Semi Final - Stade de Lyon 04-07-2019 . (Photo by Richard Sellers/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images)
The match for the title on Sunday might be between the defending champions and the Euro champions, but for many – major portions of the audience, the football enthusiasts, and the participating countries – it doesn’t matter who wins. Because effectively, it will be a collective win for women’s sports in general, and women’s football in particular. Because this will be a win for all the women out there playing football for their countries, for their teams, for their clubs – with or without wages; for all the women footballers who have been wronged time and again yet are continuing their fight for a level playing field, boots on their feet or not.
Netherlands players celebrate after the final whistle Netherlands v Sweden - FIFA Women's World Cup 2019 - Semi Final - Stade de Lyon 04-07-2019 . (Photo by Richard Sellers/EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images)
After the July 7 final is over, the winners will take home the Cup and $4 million in prize money. This is double the amount that the 2015 Champions took home. The French team that took home the men’s World Cup trophy in 2018 pocketed $38 million in prize money, just as a comparison.
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 02: A fan enjoys the atmosphere during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Semi Final match between England and USA at Stade de Lyon on July 02, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
FIFA’s total prize money budget for the Women’s Football World Cup 2019 is $30 million. For the men’s edition of the tournament in 2018, this sum was $400 million. And we are not even speaking of the compensation the football authority pays clubs and teams for preparation and letting go of their players for the World Cup month. "Maybe one day women’s football will generate more than men’s football," FIFA may defend. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the money given to teams and clubs are not earned by men’s football either. That’s just a decision. Like many others. And that’s why, on July 7, the winner is women’s football. It’s another milestone on the ladder that reaches the glass ceiling.
Saturday 6 July (16:00, Nice)
Sunday 7 July (16:00, Lyon)
On June 7, when the World Cup started, 24 teams participated and only nine of them were helmed by women coaches/managers. On July 7, for the second time in the World Cup history, the final will see a playoff between two teams, both managed by women head coaches/managers. And for the most part, it’s difficult to imagine what a significant feat this is. There’s no more need for the female coaches to prove what they can achieve, but as Sarina Wiegman, the Dutch Manager told reporters: "Women need to have the guts to make the choices and take risks to go for higher positions, but what we need to do as women is show that we have qualities."
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 03: Sarina Wiegman, Head Coach of the Netherlands speaks during a press conference following the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Semi Final match between Netherlands and Sweden at Stade de Lyon on July 03, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Wiegman was the first Dutch footballer to gain 100 caps for her country in 2001. Two years later, she retired from playing to coach and manage younger teams, and eventually, in 2017, led her side to capture the Euro Cup on home ground.
Her opponent, the US Coach, Jill Ellis, with her massive experience in football coaching, was the first woman to lead the US team to the World Cup title, a year after she took up the role in 2014. She, however, picked up enough online hatred in the past couple of weeks because of her footballing decisions. I’d love to deem this as a good sign – the positive global following of the sport. Ellis was brutally bashed after benching Lindsey Horan before the World Cup quarterfinal match against France. Horan could be one of the best midfielders of the world, but there seemed a definitely better combination in Samantha Mewis, Julie Ertz, and Rose Lavelle, in the team’s typical a 4-3-3 formation. The plan worked that day and Horan eventually replaced Lavelle at the 64thminute. Ellis’ decision proved to be the best.
me to Jill Ellis next time she doesn’t play Christen Press and I sue for emotional distress pic.twitter.com/fLJE36WD3P— makenzie depriest (@_mdepriest) June 24, 2019
A US Soccer spokesman will only say that Rapinoe not starting "is not a disciplinary decision". No other information, presumably until Jill Ellis speaks after the game. Rapinoe has scored all four of the American goals in knockout play. https://t.co/HvCK2r0PsS— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) July 2, 2019
Stop telling #USWNT what to do, writes Amy Bass for @CNNOpinion, including "trying to coach their coach, Jill Ellis, who sent the Twitterverse into a frenzy when the lineup for Tuesday's semifinal came out and star forward Megan Rapinoe was not on it." https://t.co/5jzgklpHIO— CNN (@CNN) July 3, 2019
In loving memory of Christen Press. She ain't dead but Jill Ellis treats her like she is pic.twitter.com/Oh5wT699eN— francisca; ???????????????? (@thanksdelpier0) June 28, 2019
Reminder that if the US win this tournament it will be in spite of Jill Ellis, not because of her https://t.co/8K6JCQUuhS— Frances Silva (@fasilva11) June 28, 2019
Later when Megan Rapinoe disappeared from the line-up before the England match, speculation went rife that she had faced disciplinary action following her White House comment. The Twitterverse spewed vitriol against Ellis, again. Apparently, Rapinoe was benched to rest her injured hamstring, and as one Twitter user later remarked, people were busy deleting their tweets against Ellis after the England match.
If there’s one thing to remember about the aftermath of Rapinoe’s White House comment, it would be that 2900-word letter that Rapinoe's girlfriend, Sue Bird wrote against their President. Bird, a basketball superstar herself, with three WNBA titles (2004, 2010, 2018) and four Olympic gold medals (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016), just showed what love does to you.
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 02: Alex Morgan of the USA celebrates her sides second goal during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Semi Final match between England and USA at Stade de Lyon on July 02, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Naomi Baker - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
On Sunday evening, keep an eye on Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan – the betting world is going mad over who will be the top scorer with Alex at 6 and Megan at 5 now. Alex’s recent performances, however, have indicated that she’s not in her best form and Megan, despite her past misses, might sparkle both on and off the field. The intersectional sportsperson that she is, Rapinoe’s comment after the France match has now gone wild: "Go gays. You can't win a championship without gays on your team. It's never been done before, ever. That's science, right there."
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 02: Megan Rapinoe of the USA reacts following the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Semi Final match between England and USA at Stade de Lyon on July 02, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Joosep Martinson - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)
Watch Rose Lavelle for her creative skills, if Ellis puts her in the first line. Lavelle might not have all those statistics, but she has the efficiency to craft a match from the midfield. Nothing much to be said about the US team’s defence though, and if Netherland’s forward Shanice van de Sanden manages to come back from her injury in this crucial match, it could be a very tough fight. Sari van Veenendaal’s guardianship and control of the Netherlands team is another major factor that might pose a hurdle for the American girls.
LYON, FRANCE - JULY 02: #16 Rose Lavelle of USA competes for the ball during the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France Semi Final match between England and USA at Stade de Lyon on July 02, 2019 in Lyon, France. (Photo by Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images)
When the Netherlands and the USA play their finals at Lyon, in other parts of the world, football fans will be roaring for their favourites in the Gold Cup and Copa America finals. The women in France will have a divided audience and less than half the support they deserve. Yet, in sum, it doesn’t matter. Whether the Netherlands takes the Cup or the USA, effectively, it’s a message to say that the women in football have arrived to stay.