Soccer, Women, Sexual Liberation: Kicking off a New Era

Soccer, Women, Sexual Liberation: Kicking off a New Era

Soccer, Women, Sexual Liberation: Kicking off a New Era

Soccer, Women, Sexual Liberation: Kicking off a New Era


Women's soccer is one of the world's fastest-growing sports but has been subjected to little academic scrutiny. This collection considers women's football in a global context and analyses its progress, and the challenges and problems it has faced.


The American Sue Sally Hale disguised herself as a man and played professional polo from 1950 to 1965 at a time when women were banned from playing the game professionally. Her ruse was comic-and effective: she tucked her hair into her helmet, flattened her breasts with tape, wore a baggy shirt and sported a false moustache. She was never found out! To add insult to injury, after games she 'became a woman again' and partied with the players as an impressed female admirer. Her dexterity reinforced her deception on the polo ground: 'She could ride a horse like a Comanche and hit a ball like a Mack truck', a sports commentator later observed when she eventually became the first woman to be allowed to join the US Polo Association.

If many women soccer players of 2003 do not 'have everything' as, allegedly in the view of some, befits the modern woman, many now have a great deal more in many countries than she had in the USA in 1950. Sue Sally Hale lived up to Jacobean playwright Ben Jonson's assertion that 'If women have a will they do it against all the watches of the world.' She is a sportswoman for all sportswomen.

It is hoped that Soccer, Women, Sexual Liberation will help their cause at least on soccer pitches. It reveals that many women soccer players of the world have some way to go to 'have something', never mind 'have everything'. If 'the future is feminine', as Sepp Blatter has boldly proclaimed, then FIFA's priority should be to ensure that women everywhere have the fullest opportunity to play soccer-recreationally and occupationally. That is a task well worth undertaking.

A note of caution-Nawal El Moutawakel, the first African, Muslim and Arab woman to win an Olympic gold medal, after watching a Moroccan girls' soccer game on wretched cactus-strewn scrub on the edge of a Berber village in the Atlas mountains, remarked: 'I knew how easy it was for me because of the support of my [middle-class] family. But I know there are millions of little Nawals out there who do not have the courage or the necessary support to go out and jog and feel the beauty of sport.'

She makes the strongest of points, revealed so tellingly in an earlier Sport in the Global Society collection, Freeing the Female Body: Inspirational Icons, namely, the advantages middle-class women have in the world of modern sport. Writers on women and sport should never 'be blinded by illusions of sisterly solidarity and so neglect destructive class differences associated with modern sport'.

FIFA could do no finer thing than to set as its top priority women's classless access to soccer all over the world.



International Centre for Socialization, Sport, Society

De Montfort University (Bedford) July 2003

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