No front page news, no fanfare, no chants of anything ‘coming home’ – haven’t you heard people, there’s a World Cup going on.
You may not be aware, but this week the women’s football World Cup kicked off in Canada, with the opening game attended by no less than 53,000 fans – a national record.
Our ladies are out there, playing alongside the games heavyweights like Brazil, Germany, and the USA, hoping to succeed where our men have failed for the last half century.
But if they did win, how many people would really notice? Would the open-top bus, lucrative advertising contracts and offers of Royal honours be as forthcoming as they would be if the boys came home with Jules Rimet? Sadly, I think not.
While we all go through the drama of a men’s qualifying campaign I’d put money on the fact that few people know how the ladies reached the finals of this year’s tournament.
In style is the answer, finishing top of their group by scoring 52 goals, conceding only one and beating Turkey and Montenegro by 8-0 and 9-0 respectively.
Can you imagine if Becks and the boys had ever managed that? Maybe it’s a relief they didn’t – it could have been too much for some football fanatics. I’m not convinced the hearts of many a middle-aged man could have coped with such surprise. You’d think those kind of performances would gain more recognition.
And it’s almost surprising they didn’t, considering that women’s football is now the fourth most played team sport in the UK, behind the men’s game, rugby and cricket. It’s more popular with girls than both netball and hockey, and those at the top level can now lay claim to being professional.
A far cry from 20 years ago, when yours truly became the first girl ever to play football for Larkholme County Primary School. Always a tomboy at heart, having a kick-around with the lads came far more naturally than dancing or gossiping with girls. And I was lucky to have friends, teachers and parents who supported that. Others, including members of the current national squad, seemingly didn’t.
My interest waned, and I left the pitch before my teenage years. But that’s not the case for many girls, who take the sport very seriously.
Hope Powell, former coach of the England squad, has called for a weekly Match of the Day-style programme promoting women’s football. With the best of intentions, I’d say that’s still very unlikely, even if the lionesses bring back the trophy.