• Germany's news in English

Watching women’s football – it’s just no fun

Sonia Phalnikar · 23 Jun 2011, 15:48

Published: 23 Jun 2011 15:48 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

I didn't grow up with the game called football – or soccer to North Americans and Australians.

But I realized I had developed a real passion for it about six years ago after watching second-division Union Berlin play a goalless draw against SSV Reutlingen on a rainy Wednesday evening. I knew at that point I was hooked.

I loved the play-like-your-life-depends-on-it intensity, the fervour and the unpredictability, as well as the groans and the cheers of the crowd.

Since then I've been to all kinds of matches in all kinds of stadiums: top-notch national sides battling it out during the 2006 World Cup and Bundesliga ties all over Germany. I’ve seen Zidane, Ballack, Beckham and loads of less-talented players. I've enjoyed watching youth league battles (once featuring a young Mesut Özil) as well as a spirited fourth-division face-off in sleet and rain.

I love the game for its beauty and athleticism. It can even be therapeutic at times: There's something hugely relaxing about hanging out on the sofa while 22 men slog it out on the pitch on your TV.

And now there's the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup – the 20th anniversary of the tournament. Living in Germany, there's no escaping the media buzz surrounding it – though many of the headlines have focused more on German players posing for Playboy rather than their footballing talents.

Playmates or players?

I’m already sick of the sexual stereotypes and clichés being rolled out ahead of the Women’s World Cup. Has anyone seen the new Barbie with the matchstick legs that’s supposed to resemble athletic German striker Birgit Prinz? Or there’s the TV advert showing a few German players variously whipping out a lipstick and painting their lips, applying mascara and rouge – all this in the midst of a sweaty game. The slogan? “The most beautiful World Cup ever.”

But worst of all –I just don’t seem to like the game. I had watched bits of women's football earlier, admittedly, only on TV – none of which grabbed me. But this time I was determined to give it a real chance. I really wanted to like it.

So last week, with my husband away, I settled down to watch Germany play Norway – billed as the last big game before the World Cup. It wasn't easy.

I managed to get through the first 15 minutes without switching channels. But there was one question on my mind: Sorry girls, but why should I watch this?

Click here for Women's World Cup photo gallery

I just couldn't bear to watch the slow pace, the imprecise passing, the frustrating loss of ball that interrupted play like stop-and-go driving in heavy traffic, a whacking header by a much-touted striker – except it was aimed in the wrong direction. It’s just not the game I love. Somehow it felt wrong.

Germany did go on to eventually win by three goals – all scored in the space of four minutes – but I missed them all because they took place after 75 minutes. I had long passed out on the sofa by then. What’s wrong with me?

I know it's unfair to compare women's football to the men's game. I've certainly watched plenty of men's matches that are downright disheartening – just think of some of the dreadful first round ties during the World Cup in South Africa last year.

And I know there are talented women footballers out there. Just as I realize that there are plenty of people who are interested in this tournament. Apparently many matches in Germany are already sold out.

The hype gap

Story continues below…

So don't get me wrong. I genuinely think it's great if girls play football if it empowers them and they enjoy it. I'd love it if my daughter opted to play the game. I was even moved to tears by a recent article about Steffi Jones, a former Germany player who is now the head of the nation’s World Cup organizing committee. Football offered her a ticket out of a rough Frankfurt neighbourhood and helped her overcome huge personal odds.

But the problem is this – there's a huge gap between hype and reality where it matters – on the pitch. It’s just no fun watching women’s football.

Am I guilty of abandoning my feminist ideals for being unable to muster up enthusiasm for the Women's World Cup? None of my girlfriends plan to watch it, nor are the hard-core football fans I know.

I’d already pictured myself sitting on our sofa forcing myself to watch a few games mainly out of a sense of female solidarity. But now I’ve sought comfort in a piece of news my husband gave me a few days ago – it turns out our upcoming vacation abroad coincides exactly with the opening and closing dates of the women's World Cup in Germany.

Now I have the perfect excuse for giving it a miss.

Related links:

Sonia Phalnikar (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

01:47 June 24, 2011 by german-guardian
I think football (soccer) is a great sport. It is certainly better than many other sports.
09:11 June 24, 2011 by starsh3ro
well, i watched the last womans worldcup and compared to the mens cup, it was rather boring to see them play.

also the athmosphere in the stadium was much different.

i will give it another try this year.
10:53 June 24, 2011 by PawD
I guess the players or should I say playmates look much better on the covers of certain magazines ;-)
01:36 June 26, 2011 by lunchbreak
Maybe the teams should sport sexier uniforms on and off the field. Might I suggest spike heels and deeper cleavage for starters.
13:25 June 26, 2011 by StaceyP
Perhaps the skills of the players and therefore the enjoyment of watching the women players would be improved with just a portion of the cash 'thrown' at the male players for training??
14:28 June 26, 2011 by slawek
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
18:41 June 27, 2011 by AbhilashD
Or let's go back to how the real Olympic games were held a millennium ago.
02:51 June 29, 2011 by mavfan1
I can enjoy a women's game more than a men's game for one reason. Sissy men fall down and fake injuries so much more than women. I played soccer as a kid in the U.S. and was a linesman and then a referee for several more years and in all of that time no child, boy or girl, ever fell to the ground and rolled around in fake agony trying to cheat and draw a free kick when they didn't deserve it. Men do it all of the time and sometimes it happens in women's soccer too but until FIFA gets some guts and starts suspending players for faking injuries I'll never support the men's game. I understand you can really get hurt but the faking can be stopped so easily. Just inform all of the leagues that if video evidence after a game can prove that no contact was made then a player will be banned for at least 10 games with no pay. Of course this is a stiff penalty but if the players know that obvious faking will get them booted for 10 games then they won't do it in the first place! I saw one of the "greats" Ronaldo fall to the ground grabbing at his forehead a few months ago. He pulled his hand away from his forehead as if to look for blood. The replay showed that there was contact between him and his opponent at the shoulder but from multiple angles it was proven that there was no contact with Ronaldo's head. I would say he was acting like a little child but as I said I refereed little children and they wouldn't fake injury. It should not be "part of the game" It makes the game a joke.
05:08 June 29, 2011 by wenddiver
Soccer is as boring as watching grass grow, only there are some people in the way so you can't see the grass properly.
11:41 June 29, 2011 by ioann
It seems some people (comments 3,4,6) like watching football just because the players are sexy... Do you have the same trouble with the men's uniforms or are they sexy enough?
22:52 June 29, 2011 by slawek
@ioann I don't watch men's sports due to a lack of animalistic instincts. But I do enjoy women's olympics very much. However, when I look at photos of women's soccer like this one:


I'm rather convinced nothing can help the lack of aesthetics of movement here. Strangely enough men look good in such pictures.
10:14 June 30, 2011 by ValP
@ Slawek

Funny - this is the picture that caught my eye recently too, and all I thought was - Omigod, this is sooooo UGLY! But I think that's fine - I mean, there are lots of sports in which women don't exactly look like Marylin Monroes or Angelina Jolies, or whoever else you guys find sexy and beautiful - the thing is, no one expects them (e.g. shotput women's Olympic medalists) to look sexy and model-like. What I don't understand is why people want to present these soccer girls as hot chicks. I'd say - let them play, but don't expect them to be sexy!!
20:08 June 30, 2011 by iseedaftpeople
like a friend of mine said the other day... women's soccer is like a horse race with donkeys...
18:47 July 1, 2011 by rgf001
I doubt any of these women national teams can beat a good club team of 14 year old boys. It is not for national TV or newspaper cover in my view. I do not watch nor I read about it.
08:56 July 2, 2011 by Katzerina
As an ex-Varsity soccer player, I completely agree... the only time I watch women's soccer is during the Olympics, or when I'm coaching my team of 11 year old girls. I can't really comment on why they felt the need to pose for the magazine, maybe in Germany it does have a butch rap. I know plenty of pretty girls who play soccer in the States. Who knows, perhaps they're looking for product endorsement deals?
09:39 July 8, 2011 by minga
This article is written by someone who has no clue about sports journalism. A more relevant report here:

03:02 July 12, 2011 by wood artist
Perhaps you should have watched the USA-Brazil match. There were great athletes, including the "best player in the world." There were bad calls by the officials. There was an ejection. There was an own-goal. There was a whole lot of falling down and faking injury and foul. There was a short-handed side that continued to play to the end. There was a last minute goal that tied the score. There was an upset, monumental upset according to some.

In other words, it was a whole lot like the men's game...with the faking, whining, and prima donna actions. There was also some great play. In short, there was a lot to watch.

Today's headlines
Politicians call for tough sentences for 'killer clowns'
File photo: DPA.

Now that the so-called 'killer clown' craze has spread from the US to Germany, elected officials are drawing a hard line against such "pranks", with some threatening offenders with jail time of up to a year.

Nearly one in ten Germans are severely disabled
Photo: DPA

New figures reveal that 9.3 percent of the German population last year were considered severely disabled.

The Local List
Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
The Upside-Down House, in Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania. Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.

Bavarian critics back Merkel for Chancellor again
Photo: DPA

The Christian Social Union (CSU) have long delayed backing Angela Merkel as their candidate for Chancellor in next year's general election. But now key leaders are supporting her publicly.

Four taken to hospital after hotel toilet bursts into flames
File photo: DPA.

Four guests at a Nuremberg hotel were taken to hospital due to smoke inhalation early Monday morning after a toilet there burst into flames.

Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German towns, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd