“If you’re such a football fan, name a player who’s scored one hundred goals and played for both Aston Villa and Liverpool.”
It’s astounding, isn’t it? That we are in the twenty-first century and there are still men who think having boobs and possessing a passion for sports simply cannot co-exist within the same person. It’s a tale as old time, and a battle I have been fighting for as long as my memory can recall. Supposedly an all-inclusive field (no pun intended), why has sexism not been given the red card?
I can distinctly remember the first time I faced abuse as a female obsessed with the beautiful game. I must have been fifteen-years-old and absolutely smitten with Liverpool’s latest hotshot number nine- Fernando Torres. Despite El Niño’s swishy blonde mane and sharp cheekbones, it was his nifty footwork and sensational scoring partnership with Steven Gerrard that rekindled my Liverpool love. I was perfectly aware that the other girls in my year preferred skin-tight Superdry t-shirts over football jerseys. They wore foundation and expensive perfume when all I had in my make-up bag was a tube of mascara and old eyeliner. It never bothered me, until a double period of Chemistry where two boys threw my Liverpool backpack around the lab and reduced me to tears with their harsh words and hurtful jeers. They showed no sign of remorse and I hardly expect them to now.
Undeterred, I decided that the best counter measure I could take was to start a blog about football, and naturally, being the determined individual that I am, I did. I wrote about the Liverpool games I watched, before progressing to YouTube, where I once again bore the stung of discrimination. I was seventeen-years-old and terrified, as I read the threats of anonymous male viewers. Viewers who threatened to rape me because of the football team I supported. Viewers who warned me they would kill me because of my brown skin. I was a seventeen-year-old girl.
Now, at twenty-three-years-old, I find myself still trapped by the archaic belief that as a female, I can never truly understand the offside rule. To which I’d like to say; of course I understand the offside rule; I’m not a referee!
Something that has bothered me for much longer than I care to admit is the perception of myself as a football fan. It’s almost embarrassing, how I sat and thought about how men would see me. Would I forever be labelled as ‘the tomboy’; the chill girl who’s cool because she can talk transfer windows and league tables; but never attractive because she’s ‘one of the boys’? Perhaps I was intimidating because I knew far too much about footballers and not regular guys? Or maybe guys just thought I was a football phony; a pretty little princess who was trying too hard as a way of flirting with them? If I was so into sports, why was I taking the perfect selfie for Instagram and enjoying shopping for the perfect pair of heels? Worse, what if all they did was objectify me as that girl, the kind who can be found on The Lad Bible, with a cropped sports jersey and a thong, sexily nibbling on a slice of pizza?
A quick scour of the internet only seemed to aggravate the situation, with ridiculous articles such as How to watch football with your boyfriend and 15 reasons why you should date a girl that loves football populating Google’s pages. Apparently, a female football fan can only be either one extreme or the other. After all, having a vagina makes it biologically impossible to enjoy football. God forbid sports is actually appealing to women!
Pardon my French, it’s very rare I resort to a curse word but quite frankly, this little essay is all about defying stereotypes, is it not? To put it simply, I am frustrated at how accessible sports is for men and not for women. Society has a nasty habit of labelling every activity with a gender and football is no different. How many times have we girls doubted ourselves? Whether it’s our opinion on the government or the football team’s colours we sport, there is always someone who will stand up and tell you that you simply don’t understand, but it’s alright, it’s not your fault, you’re a woman.
You can kiss my rose gold Nike Airs. After years of feeling inadequate and uncomfortable in my own skin, it’s about time I left my inhibitions at the Shankly Gates, don’t you think? Whether I’m in a dress or a pair of jeans, you can count on my winged eyeliner and love of Liverpool combined being sharp enough to cut you to pieces. It’s 2017; stop judging women as girls who like football and start respecting them as football fans.
Oh, and to answer the original question; Emile Heskey, Peter Crouch and Robbie Keane.