Wednesday 21 August 2019

You should never not watch the Women's World Cup

FIFA Women's World Cup (RTE2, BBC1)

England's Steph Houghton, Karen Bardsley, Millie Bright and Rachel Daly. Photo: Eric Gaillard/Reuters
England's Steph Houghton, Karen Bardsley, Millie Bright and Rachel Daly. Photo: Eric Gaillard/Reuters
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

It is one of my basic rules of good living, that you should never not watch a football match.

It's a line which has sometimes been misinterpreted as a call to watch every single game of football that is shown on television, today and for the rest of your life.

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But it is more nuanced than that - it means that if you're ever tempted not to watch a football match, perhaps because you feel it is not important enough, or that it just won't be any good, you should never give in to that essential weakness in your character.

Because part of the mysterious essence of the game, is that you never know what's going to happen on a football pitch, and often it is just such games which seem to promise little, which end up being unforgettable.

Ergo, you should never not watch a football match, a dictum which assumes a deeper meaning still in the case of the Women's World Cup. Incredibly, there are some who will never not watch a football match if men are playing in it, who will blithely depart from this crucial life lesson simply because the players are female.

It is deeply unwise of them, especially so at this difficult time, one of these summers when there is no Men's World Cup, no Men's European Championship, and not even an Olympic Games.

Into this abysmal void came the Women's World Cup, and yet there will be some who will spurn it as some sort of Virtual Football? No, my friends, there is nothing virtual about this football, and you would know this, if you weren't going against the good habits of a lifetime, and not watching it.

Indeed the only complication for me, is that I had reconciled myself to the supposed lack of a massive tournament, with a line of reasoning that went something like this: a World Cup is great while it lasts, but when it is over the pain is so terrible, perhaps it's better that it doesn't start in the first place...

Whatever gets you through the night is all right, as the man said. But of course that line of reasoning wasn't really all right, and it didn't really get me through the night - and then I realised I was looking at it the wrong way, that there is indeed this World Cup on the telly most nights of the week, and that that being the case, I for one am not going to not watch it.

There is even a dimension to this tournament that is absent from the male equivalent, an emotional element to it which you would not get at the other World Cup - yes, it is hard for any player, male or female, to make it to the World Cup, but really it is harder if you're a woman, because for you, everything to do with football has been harder.

These women love football as much as any man has ever done, yet they have also faced many cruel rejections of their ambitions to play the game at a high level - often from men who are their inferiors, who can hardly play football at all, yet who feel free to disrespect the performances of these women, because they are also inferior in other ways.

For a start they lack imagination - if they're watching a bad football match involving men, they just write it off as a bad football match, they don't deduce from this that all football played by men is inherently bad. Yet if they see a poor game at this World Cup, they somehow can't imagine that the next game might have better players in it, better football all round.

But because it's being shown on terrestrial television, on BBC1 and RTE2 and TG4 and even BBC Four, it will be easy to correct these prejudices - indeed there is an odd phenomenon whereby even mere FA Cup matches being shown on BBC1, will have much bigger audiences than even the most prestigious Premier League games on Sky Sports. So millions were watching England v Japan last Wednesday. And millions were not watching it, but you know my views on that.

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