Football. Soccer. Footie. Call it what you like, one thing’s certain: it’s not reserved for the boys. The excitement around this year’s Women’s World Cup proved that the ladies more than deserve a place on the field and the world stage. There was not only excitement but success too: more than 1.5 million tickets were sold for the tournament held this year in Australia and New Zealand. For the semifinal between Spain and Sweden, the sellout crowd of 43 217 equalled the highest attendance for a men's or women's match in New Zealand.
Women have been hitting the field for more than a hundred years, but the sport's not been without its challenges. Throughout the 20th century, women's football was banned in several countries. In England, in 1921, it was banned by the Football Association, calling it "quite unsuitable for females”. In Brazil, while the men were off winning World Cup after World Cup after World Cup, women were banned from the field from 1941 to 1979. The sport has come a long way for women, yet they still need to fight for equal footing on and off the field. This year there were 32 teams competing in the World Cup, but only 12 of those were coached by women.
But wathint' abafazi, wathint' imbokotho. After a bitter struggle, it's finally been agreed that our own team, Banyana Banyana, is to be paid the same as their male counterparts in Bafana Bafana who, let's not forget, last qualified for the World Cup in 2010, and then only because South Africa was the host nation. This year, Banyana Banyana was not only representing Mzansi at the World Cup by qualifying for the prestigious event, but they also won their first-ever game, beating Italy 3 – 2, and drawing 2 – 2 against Argentina. It was an exhilarating and proud moment for the nation.
Abroad, Angel City has made waves. This relatively new National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) team based in Los Angeles is female-founded and led, its backers including renowned actors and athletes like Natalie Portman, America Ferrera, Eva Longoria, Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, and Serena Williams. Their trials and triumphs so far are chronicled in a new documentary series, Angel City.
Told in three parts, the series looks at the team's beginnings, its inaugural season, and its future. Angel City airs Sundays at 18:00 on M-Net channel 101. Since it’s Women’s Month – and we've just enjoyed watching the Women's World Cup – it’s the perfect time to celebrate women and women in football. If you missed the first episode, catch up with DStv Stream here.
Feature image: Angel City. HBO