The beautiful game is coming home but not in politics

Trollies are being wheeled out of supermarkets stacked with booze. The BBQs will tomorrow be lit to sear burgers and sausages to the point of incineration. It’s party time because it’s coming home. And the final is against Germany, our nation’s favourite enemy in what used to be called the beautiful game.

Today’s newspapers are not only full of coverage of the Lionesses, they cover the other contest gripping the nation (or probably not). The battle to become Tory leader and the prime minister of our nation. With the backing on Ben Wallace and Tom Tugendhat, Liz Truss probably thinks it’s all over. It is not over until the final whistle.

I think most of us wish it was over. Why has the Tory party imposed this lengthy torture on us? It’s a huge home goal for the party, which is showing itself in the worst possible light.

When the Lionesses win tomorrow, I am not going say “if they win”, politicians of all colours will line up to shout in support and broadcast their congratulations. Boris Johnson will no doubt be at the forefront to claim credit:

“Got Brexit done! Got Covid done! Got Germany done!”

We are well used to rubbish from our prime minister who will shortly be relegated to the second division. But there are more serious issues.

As in everything in sport, the outcome of tomorrow’s match is uncertain. The same is true of the leadership election. Rishi Sunak is the cautious tortoise while Liz Truss is haring ahead. It is a match where no one can cheer for one winner or the other. Both deserve to lose.

The women’s game in football meanwhile is outclassing the men. The men’s game is no longer beautiful. It has been tainted by money. It’s about egos more than skills and personalities. About WAGS. About trading and making money for already wealthy owners of clubs.

But for now, at least, the women’s game is not dominated by the distractions off the pitch in the way the men’s game has been.

The Football Association will need to raise its game. There is paucity of opportunities for women to play. And, unbelievable in the 21st century, many girls have to ask their parents to cough up £50 a month to play, while the boys get a free ticket. Boys and men do not have a superior right to football. The right to play without discrimination or hinderance should be universal. With cricket and other sports too.

The FA needs to change the ingrained attitude that women’s football is inferior to the beautiful game played by men. Women’s football is not inferior. It is much more enjoyable to watch.

Women are reinventing football by taking it back to its roots. To a time when fouls happened but the fouler accepted the referee’s discipline without much of a fuss. When players did not throw themselves on the ground despite no obvious injury. When the fans of each side didn’t think the attending a match was an opportunity to beat up the opponents’ supporters. When racism chants were mostly unheard of. When fans were there to cheer good play and goals no matter who kicked it into the net.

But that was also a time when women were frowned on for taking part in a man’s sport. We are at the cusp of changing that.

Will this honeymoon last? Or will money and aggression yet again corrupt a game that is at last showing its beauty?

Beautiful football. Fair football. Enjoyable football. Let’s hope tomorrow’s game keeps that dream alive.

* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Thursday editor of Lib Dem Voice.

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5 Comments

  • Neil Hickman 31st Jul '22 - 9:01am

    Well, I hope you’re right about the Lionesses winning, though I shan’t believe it till it’s happened. I’ve been in too many over-optimistic committee rooms.
    And you’re right about the women’s game being good to watch. People will be replaying the third goal against Sweden for a very long time.
    But “When players did not throw themselves on the ground despite no obvious injury….”? Sorry, but the first goal against Norway was worthy of Tom Daley.

  • The games I’ve watched, about five have been free flowing and entertaining. I do hope England wins though whatever the result I’m looking forward to another exciting 90 minutes. The men’s game could learn from taking from the female one its positive points and reforming its own.

  • Robert Harrison 31st Jul '22 - 3:28pm

    Totally agree with Andy here about the real winners from this competition – women’s football, whatever country you support.
    As for me, it’s a bit of a challenge as dual UK/German citizen.

  • Peter Martin 31st Jul '22 - 3:55pm

    “To a time when…… racism chants were mostly unheard of.” ??

    If this was ever true, it was only because, prior to the late 60s, there were hardly any black players in the game. The FA, for all its faults, does have a good track record of combatting racism in football. The incidence of such chanting, now, is very much lower than it was in the 70s when black players started to make a breakthrough.

    “When fans were there to cheer good play and goals no matter who kicked it into the net.”

    Rather wishful thinking I’m afraid! It’s never been like that. It still isn’t, even in the women’s game. When Spain scored the other night…….

  • David Garlick 1st Aug '22 - 10:40am

    Great match and result!

    Be careful what you wish for however. The English scene only survives by the patronage of the wealthy and the experience of most clubs is living on a financial ‘knife edge’ with bancruptcy never far away. The womens game is in aa better place now than the mens. There are clear opportunitites for a great expansion of the womens game but please don’r sacrifice the all the joy for money, money money.

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