In soccer, or sports in general, women constantly face unique challenges. Ultimately, it’s one of the reasons why we created SoccerGrlProbs!
All over the world, these challenges range anywhere from personal to economic to practical to political. Sometimes, even cultural standards affect our love for the sport. In Zimbabwe, in terms of performance, girls are generally viewed as dancers, while sports are exclusive to boys. Almost the same goes in Pakistan, where women lack a platform to compete on without being pegged by men as hindrances.
It’s safe to say that, as women, we’re often the underdogs. We have the chip on our shoulders, the stubborn stigma we have to erase in order to enjoy the sport we love – let alone compete freely. To put things in perspective, let’s have a look at – currently – the biggest ongoing international competition: the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in Europe.
On paper, the recently concluded Spain and Albania match looked like a walk in the park for the former champions. In fact 2018 World Cup Qualifying correspondent, Tobias Gourlay, wrote on the football tips page about the impending Spanish juggernaut and how they’ll overwhelm their opponents by no less than three goals. However, like a true underdog, Albania fought tooth and nail, and effectively applied forward pressure when counter attacking. Although they managed to keep it scoreless up until the end of the first half, their more decorated adversaries still won ended up winning the match 2-0.
If there’s one takeaway from this World Cup Qualifying, it’s about proper planning, which eventually leads to favorable – not necessarily successful – results and opportunities. So for us to push for a strong developmental soccer program for girls around the world, leaders must first recognize these challenges then create a solution heading towards advancement of sustainable strategies.
The most basic approach, in smaller communities, would have to be making the concerted effort to ask heads and/or parents their overall thoughts on women’s soccer. For instance, some regions or countries are bound by tradition, which means, that organizers would have to put an extra premium on the appropriate sport apparel. In terms of female soccer role models, gone are the days when girls couldn’t find role models with whom they could relate to. Today, we have the likes of Carli Lloyd from Team USA, as well as Costa Rica’s Raquel Rodriguez.
All in all, as we further progress in this sport from the grassroots level all the way to the world’s biggest stage, we’ll slowly see the prejudices and misconceptions dissipate. Yes, it’ll be hard, but as athletes, we should know by now how nothing in this life comes easy; we always have to earn for it. That’s what makes it worth it in the end. That’s how we recognize and conquer being an underdog!