“FFS sign someone” – The football sexism that just won’t go away

By Alasdair Hooper

On July 17 the newly-formed Manchester United women’s team had to abandon a pre-season friendly.

Marquee signing Siobhan Chamberlain – who has 50 England caps to her name – sustained what appeared to be a serious neck injury in the game against Liverpool Ladies.

After receiving the necessary on-pitch treatment the goalkeeper was then taken to hospital resulting in the abandonment of the game.

With concerns over the 34-year-old’s welfare clearly high, Manchester United tweeted out the information to update the fanbase on the news that one of their star names had suffered a potentially serious injury.

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When faced with the news about Chamberlain this is how some fans decided to respond to that tweet:

“FFS sign someone.”  

“WTF we just want to sign someone.”

“Oh thought it was something important.”

“Does the formation of a women’s team mean less signings and putting up with the likes of Jones, Smalling for another year?”

“No offense but have we become a women’s club? Last 90% of the last 50 tweets were about the women’s team ffs.”

 “Sign Bonucci to replace him.”

One Manchester United?

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Whether you deem these comments as idiocy – or you label them with that abhorrent word ‘banter’- there is no getting away from what these comments actually represent.

It is blatant sexism of the very highest order. Far too often tweets regarding women’s football, or female involvement in football of any kind, are flooded with ignorant comments such as these.

The explanations behind it are complex but for some reason the sport often brings the very worst type of laddish, Neanderthal behaviour out of some people.

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It should be noted that, thankfully, the voices of reason do also speak up.

On the very same Twitter thread that brought about the infuriating comments above Dan Jones wrote: “The amount of so called United fans on here throwing out abuse is disgusting.

“A player wearing our colours got injured. Gender, age or race shouldn’t matter. Give your heads a wobble.”

Luckily Chamberlain’s injury was not as serious as was first feared but the fact that some fans deemed that situation to be an acceptable environment to spout their sexist remarks only adds to the infuriation behind it.

 

Your voice is too high-pitched!

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Worryingly the social media response surrounding the Manchester United goalkeeper was only the most recent snapshot of football sexism.

The FIFA World Cup in Russia, for all of its plus points as a spectacle and a tournament, demonstrated that the issue is prevalent across the board.

Fast food giant Burger King offered women the chance to win $47,000, and free Whoppers for life, if they got impregnated by a World Cup player while the Argentinean football federation published a section on “How to pick up Russian Women” in its pre-tournament guide for staff and journalists.

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Additionally, some of the female reporters and journalists out in Russia covering the World Cup had to deal with some appalling behaviour from fans.

Arguably the most high-profile incident was that of Brazilian TV journalist Julia Guimaraes who won praise across the board for her reaction to a man who attempted to launch in for a kiss mid-broadcast.

She was by no means the only one on the receiving end.

Swedish journalist Malin Wahlberg was grabbed and kissed while reporting on her country’s game against South Korea and similar incidents happened with Argentinean ESPN reporter Agos Larocca and France 24’s Kethevane Gorestani.

Another reporter, Julieth González Therán, was working for German broadcaster Deutsche Welle’s Spanish news channel when a man grabbed her breast and kissed her cheek.

The list goes on and on.

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We are in no way clear in this country either as former Chelsea footballer, and current talkSPORT presenter, Jason Cundy said female commentators’ voices were too high-pitched.

The comments came in a debate on ITV’s Good Morning Britain after the BBC’s Vicki Sparks became the first woman to commentate on a World Cup group game and Cundy was not a fan.

“I found it a tough listen. I prefer to hear a male voice. For 90 minutes listening to a high-pitched tone isn’t what I want to hear,” he said.

“When there’s a moment of drama, which there often is in football, I think that moment needs to be done with a slightly lower voice.”

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Cundy was lambasted by Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan as a “sexist pig” and he then issued an apology on Twitter that evening.

There was also more patronising punditry on British television when former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra gave fellow pundit Eni Aluko a clap in response to her analysis.

 

Is football packed full of male entitlement?

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For as long as we can remember football has been dominated by men across the board.

Of the 16,000 journalists working at the FIFA World Cup only 14 per cent were women.

While the profile of women’s football is growing, and true football fans are perfectly ok with that, there are still worrying levels of people who seem to see a woman’s presence in the game as an invasion.

“I was in Russia for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics but the World Cup has been far worse because it brings the worst out of supporters who believe it should be a male-only event,” Brazilian journalist Amanda Kestelman told James Masters of CNN.

“The problem has been especially bad in the streets with fans and drunk people.

“Once I left the metro and asked a boy to walk with me because there was a group laughing and pointing at me on the train.

“My friend and colleague was kissed before a live report on two occasions.

“That was the worst. No one can do this to a woman when she doesn’t consent.”

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Another Brazilian journalist Luiza Oliveira also told CNN: “I work with a Russian girl, who is a translator, and I have noticed that she has difficulty to walk around the city quietly without being approached.

“We went to the Fan Zone to work on an article and she was approached by at least five different men, some touched her without permission.

“One day in Red Square, a Turkish man hugged her and took a selfie with her without asking permission.

“I intervened and told him he couldn’t do that because it was disrespectful. He said that the photo was for his wife, as if that served as justification for the act.”

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Whether it is idiocy, male entitlement and – dare we say it – the influence of alcohol, behaviour to women at the World Cup and in football is far removed from where it should be.

Many may highlight the fans and the way they have acted but a lot of that behaviour is reinforced by painfully stupid moves such as the aforementioned Burger King stunt.

But when Getty Images go ahead and release a photo gallery entitled “The World Cup’s sexiest fans” – a move they have since apologised for – and every televised broadcast includes cutaways to attractive women in the crowd, can we actually be that surprised that a number of men deem this laddish behaviour acceptable?

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We are a long way from eradicating sexism in the game and, in many ways, it can’t be completely removed.

Dinosaurs will always exist and linger in one way or another after all.

But what people can do is call these comments out for what they are – misogynistic, disrespectful, and blatantly disgusting sexism.

Once those who are guilty of this behaviour get the message that this won’t be tolerated, and that women have every right to participate in the game alongside any other person, maybe then the tide will turn in its entirety.

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