Men’s Soccer is Overrated

By: Avery McDonough

The “battle” between men’s and women’s football has forever been one of respect, money, and recognition. Women have been pushed into daytime television slots, forced into cheap contracts, and grossly discriminated against for as long as the game of football has existed. The fact of the matter is that men’s football has been criminally overrated and prioritized for just as long.

FIFA is not just a video game. The “international governing body of football” and the host of both the Men’s and Women’s FIFA World Cup, FIFA is the king of the football world.  The pinnacle of football success is to bring the World Cup trophy back to one’s country. The United States Men’s National Team has never succeeded in bringing the famed trophy back to the States, their highest placement in the tournament has been third place. It is, however, the shortcomings of men’s football that you will hear about long before the successes of the female game. The United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) has won the last two FIFA Women’s World Cups, with forward Megan Rapinoe taking home both the Golden Boot and the Golden Ball awards in the most recent 2019 Women’s World Cup. To win the World Cup once is an outstanding achievement, but the USWNT now have a total of four World Cup trophies in their program history. Yet, they are still paid less than the men and constantly put on the back burner by the United States Soccer Federation.

In a recent documentary titled LFG, the USWNT explained to the public their ongoing lawsuit and their fight for equal pay and representation from the United States Soccer Federation. It was explained that the USWNT attracted roughly 25.4 million viewers in their 2019 World Cup final against Japan, a game that showcased an incredible hat trick scored by New Jersey native Carli Lloyd and cemented its spot as the most viewed American Football Match, in both men’s and women’s football. That feat, paired with the fact that their male counterpart did not even qualify for the following FIFA World Cup, begs the same question that women have asked for generations: “Why are we being paid less to do the same job when we are clearly doing it better?”

Representation is a huge part of the football game. One of the most recognizable faces of football is Cristiano Ronaldo, current Manchester United and Portugal national team forward. Recently, in a recent FIFA World Cup Qualifier against the Republic of Ireland, Ronaldo scored both his 110th and 111th goal for his country, a goal-scoring record in men’s international football. But that’s the thing; it is only a record in men’s football. Christine Sinclair, a Canadian national team player, has 187 goals for her country, a number much higher than that of Christiano Ronaldo. Yet when the message went out that “Ronaldo had become the world’s top international scorer” there was no acknowledgment of Christine Sinclair’s accomplishments. In fact, the word “men’s” was omitted from most, if not all, of the largest football reports. Society has always prioritized the men’s game, but it is in fact the same game. It will always be 90 minutes of football played on the same field, with the same ball, and the exact same rule book. It is simply because they are women that their records are forgotten about and diminished to nothing. 

The men’s game, however, as over-prioritized as it may be, is not without its worthy qualities. The 2020 European Championship or EUROS provided numerous examples. It brought the qualified European nations closer together over a summer of football, from Denmark rallying around Christian Ericksen after a cardiac event he suffered in the 43rd minute of a group stage match against Finland, to the entire English nation celebrating in beer gardens and pubs when England qualified for their first major tournament final in 54 years. Then again, in the EURO 2020 final when Luke Shaw, a Manchester United and English left-back, fired the ball past Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma to put England up by one goal after only two minutes of play. Men’s football controlled the European mood throughout the summer of 2021, even the mood of an American teenager living in St. Petersburg, Florida. I will always remember Marcus Rashford’s left side miss and Jordan Pickford’s incredible save against Italian and Chelsea midfielder, Jorginho, “To Keep England Alive.” Then, watching Italy lift a trophy that, after an incredible and record-breaking summer, millions felt England deserved. 

Men’s football brings people together, so why can’t the women’s game? The women’s game has not been given the same opportunities to grow and reach people because of the refusal of television networks to give women’s football the “prime time” slot. 

Beyond that, there’s the blatant sexism. The soccer fan base is plagued by middle-aged men who refuse to leave the past behind and complain about women who demand to be treated equally. They ask: “Why are they bitter? Why are they complaining if they still get to play the game they love? So what if they don’t get paid equally, they are women!” 

And then there’s the physical mistreatment within women’s sports. Women are often forced to play on inadequate fields, fields like the one that led to USWNT star Megan Rapinoe tearing her anterior cruciate ligament while practicing with the USWNT before the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

There is also the mental mistreatment towards women’s football. Why would a little girl want to play a sport when there is no recognizable future in it? Young girls, including myself, have been pushed into watching the men’s game and believing that we will get no closer to professional football than what we see on the television.

Why, as a nation, and as a world, have we prioritized one side of the same coin? Both games are identical; they are played on the same pitch, with the same ball, and the same goal. If the games are the same, then the separation has not been determined based on skill, it has been determined based on gender. In a society built on restoring all forms of equality, including gender equality, there is no better place to start than the world of football.

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