Women in football
“Football is a man’s sport”, “football is for guys with hairy chests”, “women can never understand the offside rule”, “women football is cool, then we have something to laugh at”, “the only women who would like to play football are lesbians”.
Statements like these do not date back 50 years or more, I am afraid. They still can be heard, and shows no respect for the women in football. Most men have become a little bit smarter, not sharing such thoughts without making sure they will not be reported for sexist behavior or harassment. They often pretend to be politically correct, but deep within themselves; they still think football is for men, only.
OK, football USED to be for men, but that is long ago now. Women came into the sport about 40 years ago, and they came with numbers and with power. They came with a determination, claiming the right to play the beautiful game.
In Norway in 1974 there were around 50 women playing football, now around 30 % of all registered players in Norway are female. With over 135.000 registered players this makes women football the biggest sport for women in Norway. How did this happen?
Firstly, there was an interest by women to play themselves. And why shouldn’t it? There is nothing in the game that actually prevents women, who admittedly on average may be a little smaller than men, but so what? The main problem was men’s perception of it. “Women are too weak, too fragile, do not last a full match, are easily injured… “. Blah blah blah. The list goes on.
Women can, and do, run full marathons, so why shouldn’t they be able to play 2 x 45 minutes?
Personally, I believe it is the same story as we see in politics, in businesses, in organizations etc.; the men were there first, and they will not give up their seats that easily. The Football Association of Norway saw this, admitted it was a problem, and decided to do something about it.
They decided to use the principle of quotation! This means demanding a certain % of each gender in leadership positions, set aside special budgets to promote the women in football etc. This was done in 1986, and it changed football in Norway almost overnight.
This is of course discrimination, but it is positive discrimination. Treating people in exactly the same way, when what they have from the beginning, is not justice. Imagine 3 kids going to a football match, but they have no money for tickets. One of the boys is 1,60m high, one is 1,35m and one is 1,20m. They find a low wall by the stadium, which is 1,50m high. They also find 3 wooden boxes they can stand on.
Well, treating them equally, they will get a box each. The boy being 1,60m can already see over the wall, so does he need the box at all? The second boy will be able to see over the wall with one box, and the last one need 2 boxes. So, giving them one box each is EQUALITY. Giving the tallest boy no box, the second boy one box, and the third boy two boxes, is JUSTICE. Now they all can peek over the wall, and enjoy the match.
Many women object to the idea of quotation, since it then might seem they got their position just because of their gender. This is of course not the case. They had exactly the same qualities and competence as their male opponents, but was given the possibility because any organization, business, government etc. actually functions better if more aspects of views are present, more diversity exists.
NFF, and the rest of Norwegian sports, now have the rule that at least 40 % of the board members on any level, from club to Association/Federation on national level, must have different gender. NFF have also decided that out of 2 vice presidents, one has to be a woman.
Throughout the history of FIFAs members, I know about 2 – two – female General Secretaries representing their national associations! One of them was Norwegian, of course.
Certain businesses in Norway have the same principle, and it is imposed through legislation. The same applies for government on different level. As a result, more and more women do get their place in leadership positions, and more and more people understand that this is just natural, and that they of course can fill any position a man can.
FFAV have followed this principle from the very start; by demanding a 50 – 50 % boys and girls participation in all clubs, for them to receive support. We have given priority to girls teams for participation in for example Norway Cup, 4 girls teams out of 4 delegations. This has really changed the minds of people here in Hue province; they now truly believe football is for both boys and girls.
In our administration we have followed the same principle; if candidates have similar qualifications, we chose the female candidate. In the FFAV Management Group, 4 out of 7 leaders are female.
So, when FIFA and other of the footballs governing bodies debate the lack of women in leading positions, look to FFAV. We have the answer.
Link to the article in The Guardian: