(The Original)

Amateur Scribe

Women's Football

Lennart Johansson's claim that sponsors of women's football could cash in by promoting the players' physical attributes has provoked angry reaction.

The Uefa president said on Friday: "Companies could make use of a sweaty, lovely looking girl playing on the ground, with the rainy weather.
"It would sell," he told BBC Five Live.

Ex-England star Sue Smith said: "It's disappointing someone high up in the game said something like that. You want people to watch for football reasons."

Johansson did condemn his Fifa counterpart Sepp Blatter for his comments last year when he called for players to wear "tighter shorts".

From bbc.co.uk Friday 17th June

Ah, football’s top brass – fingers firmly on the pulse of modern attitudes to equality.

Johansson and Blatter can consider themselves fortunate they don’t work for the FA. Comments like that would not only have seen them abruptly fired but also no doubt seconded to some ghastly Brownie soccer school to have a long hard think about what they’ve done. Luckily for them, Europeans are a bit more misogynistic.

Part of me can’t help but snicker at such brazen buffoonery from two extremely high-profile people, but what shocks me most is that the FIFA and UEFA presidents should be pressed for comment about such an insignificant issue in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m fairly liberal-minded and wouldn’t consider myself remotely sexist - I don’t think women should not play football because they should be chained to the kitchen sink – I think they should not play football because they are crap at it.

This perfectly reasonable stance has, surprisingly, not gone down too well with my female acquaintances. I don’t quite know why – I’m happy to acknowledge that men are rubbish at, say, ironing or picking out curtains – what’s wrong with good old-fashioned honesty? It’s best to be wary though: You can’t be too cavalier, especially in a pub situation where ladies can become a little feisty and red of face - You don’t want to be too scornful or you’ll be wearing that white wine spritzer or fruit-based cocktail.

I remember one particularly indignant girl suggested I stopped making sweeping generalisations and “actually watched a game because I might learn something”, so I forced myself to sit through a tortuous Women’s FA Cup Final and learned that not only are women footballers crap, but most of them are ugly as well. You can’t accuse me of not doing my research.

Looking back, I suppose my personal scepticism has its genesis in a particularly harrowing episode of Jossy’s Giants where my beloved bunch of rogues and misfits were roundly trounced by a load of preening, shrieking schoolgirls. If memory serves, I believe they also suffered the ignominy of having to wear pink kit due to a "hilarious" men-trying-to-wash-clothes-and-fucking-it-up storyline.

For my classmates and me, this perceived slight on both our gender and our intelligence had violent repercussions: Girls in our year without the slightest interest in football were aggressively challenged to keepy-uppy competitions and vicious playground 5-asides. The more zealous among us, I’m ashamed to say, took things a little further, regularly clattering into scything sliding tackles on our be-skirted classmates as they sat on the playing fields making daisy chains.

While I later developed an inevitable fondness for girls in school uniform (and stopped ostentatiously dribbling round them in favour of blushing, avoiding eye contact and, well, just dribbling), my contempt for unrealistic use of sporting-themed reverse sexism in television drama continued unabated.

At a pinch, I’ll give them Gregory’s Girl. The idea of one freakishly gifted prodigy upstaging her male peers was greatly aided by the hiring of an actress who could at least kick a ball without falling over and was, when compared to John Gordon Sinclair, actually pretty useful.

But my ire was perpetuated over the years thanks to countless Grange Hill episodes where lazy, shameless scriptwriting and a dearth of imagination produced a glut of smug cautionary tales that were as dull and predictable as they were insulting.

Almost without exception, they ran as follows:

• Feckless, scruffy bully sneers contemptuously: “We’re much better at football than you, innit?”
• Defiant group of girls challenge the boys to an official match
• Comely, floury-aproned Home Economics teacher cajoled into being their coach
• Overly competitive, misanthropic, bearded PE teacher with whistle round neck attempts to whip the boys into shape
• Match day arrives – Girls: Catty and nervous; Boys: condescending and over-confident
• Boys go seven goals up
• Girls have earnest half-time team talk with Home Economics teacher and bring on wild, untamed gypsy lass - hitherto bullied and outcast by cool classmates
• Second half montage of clips showing boys comically running into each other, missing regulation tackles and arguing amongst themselves as gypsy lass brings the girls back into the game. Montage ends with several shots of gypsy lass tapping ball really gently intercut with ball flying into top corner
• Seven-all. Last minute. Gypsy lass bursts into area. Brought down by feckless bully. Bully sent off. Girl taps the penalty with all the power and finesse of an incontinent gnat. Ball flies into top corner. Final whistle.
• Gypsy girl carried aloft in lap of honour by ecstatic team-mates
• Boys look dejected
• PE teacher, beet red, throws whistle down in disgust.
• Home Economics teacher saunters past him and makes pithy comment

End of light relief – cut to Zammo jacking up in the toilets…

De-dem dat dowwww!

Jossy
Gregory

Jossy and John Gordon Sinclair:

Both beaten by girls...

You can always count on the BBC for eschewing realism in favour right-on nonsense (though, admittedly, it’s unusual to see intravenous class-A narcotics use at tea-time so kudos to them for that.). Now they bring us the 2005 Women’s European Championships, and football has very much come home. More specifically, football has come to the North-West of England, where group games are being battled out in intimidating, almost half-full colloseums such as Warrington and Bloomfield Park Blackpool. And there’s plenty to play for: The final is due to be played at the legendary Ewood Park, and show me a superstar of the European game who hasn’t dreamed of walking out onto the same hallowed turf where Mike Newell and Colin Hendry once strutted their stuff and I’ll show you a big fat liar.

For those of us not lucky enough to witness events first hand, the BBC have lavished hours of coverage on the Championships.

Evidently the big guns panel-wise were unavailable, which is probably a blessing, for, instead of having to endure the inanity of Sue Barker or the unremitting chirpiness of the ubiquitous Hazel Irvine, the gig was given to a pleasant lady called Celina who has good cheekbones and an admirable bonhomie despite having to share a studio with several frightening-looking ex-England luminaries. And Gavin Peacock.

Peacock’s inclusion is a touch puzzling. He is still very much a novice in punditry terms and, along with roving reporter David James completes a journalistic line-up that is untested at this level. Look a little harder though and you’ll see two gentlemen both very much in touch with their feminine sides – no small advantage when you consider the other possibilities at the BBC’s disposal.

One assumes, for example, the contribution of, say, Ian Wright may have degenerated into coarse speculation over the England team’s giggling and wet towel-slapping changing room antics, while Gary Lineker would doubtless have sprained an eyebrow at the rich potential for wry innuendo and Alan Hansen may simply have spontaneously combusted due to the shocking standard of defending. Peter Schmeichal, of course, is just shit.

Terry and Unit

"You should be doing the washing up love." Terry gives Rachel Unitt short shrift

I noticed Peacock has cultured some pencil-thin facial hair – evidently an attempt to butch up in the face of so many bickering harpies – but he ends up looking like Alistair MacGowan doing an impression of a camp, rosy-cheeked musketeer, which is perhaps not the style he was going for.

Sadly I missed out on all the insightful banter because I watched England’s games with the sound turned down while cranking up the heavy metal on the stereo, cutting my toenails with the garden shears and generally snorting and scratching myself in a desperate attempt to inject some sort of BLOODY MASCULINITY into proceedings. But I fear we are doomed to a fey and patronising future where ill-judged political correctness overtakes simple common sense. I’m glad I missed the commentary though – the faux-excitement and condescending verbal diarrhoea of a jumped-up Barry Davies wannabe would have probably made me puke into my Pannini sticker album.

Having said that, the standard of the football is not all that bad, aside from the fact that all the participants kick and run like girls. I have to say I was expecting a bristling bunch of Fatima Whitbread types, but there’s a slender guile to some of the play. Arsenal’s Kelly Smith is clearly a cut above the rest and “teenage sensation” Karen Carney displays wing wizardry akin to Chris Waddle in his pomp. Indeed, looks-wise, the cascade of auburn hair and the elegantly unkempt way the muddy number 14 shirt spills from her shorts is eerily reminiscent of the Geordie maestro – and that is by no means meant to be an insult - during the short-lived pop superstardom of Hoddle and Waddle after the smash hit Diamond Lights, Chris could justifiably have claimed to be “The Handsome One”.

But the others have less going for them. Women’s football is littered with Croydon facelifts and muddied knees and despite showcasing alice bands and ponytails on the international footballing stage with considerably more conviction than the Juan Pablo Angels or David Seamans of this world, it is, I’m afraid, pretty woeful stuff. Weak final balls, running down blind alleys, tearful remonstrations with the ref – it’s a bit like watching West Ham.

There’s plenty of endeavour and no little skill, but the biggest problem with the spectacle as a whole, like the worst kind of pornography, is the utter lack of penetration (which is strange considering the number of lithe Scandinavians running round in tight shorts hugging each other).

Unfortunately most of the Nordic celebration was a direct result of plucky England’s premature exit, and while Peacock managed to control himself into acting suitably chagrined at the end, no doubt at least one UEFA Executive was more interested in envisioning sweaty women in a communal bath than expressing sorrow at the host’s demise.

June 2005

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