More than a game: Social justice in women’s football

Chelsea's Sam Kerr of takes a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement on October 11, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The decision to cut funding in women’s football and cancel games in the women’s league is more than a question of investment in a game.

Professional men’s football games could continue, with little or no financial repercussions. But cutting funding and cancelling games has ripple effects to female footballers. Their voices are being silenced, their platforms lessened, and their talent devalued.

The pandemic has served as an incentive to highlight inequalities. In football, there are notable differences between professional female players and their male counterparts. This ranges from investment in the games to the treatment of players.

Meanwhile, as female players’ platforms gain prominence, so is the spotlight following them. Despite their growing audiences, female players have not taken this recognition for granted.

Women, football and social justice

The responsibility of the ‘female footballer’ to use their platform to represent, communicate and negotiate has never been more prominent. It is a privilege to play or engage in the game of football.

Lewes FC have raised awareness of this privilege. Their ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights’ campaign commemorated the life of Sahar Khodayari with a special scarf.

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Sahar was an Iranian woman who set herself on fire, after she found out that she could face imprisonment. All because she went to a football match.

The practice of sport diplomacy is more visible and important than ever before. This holds true especially in women’s football.

The solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement shown by female footballers globally is a prime example.

On the pitch, players are seen as just that, players. Yet off the pitch, the level of the playing field is questionable. Acknowledging this trend, before their games, female footballers globally took the knee in protest of racial injustice.

A beautiful video made by OL Reign in June 2020, demonstrated NWSL players using their platform. They displayed their alliance to their teammates, audiences, and associations through the sport.

Female footballers united globally to support the notion that these injustices will not infiltrate the game that they passionately play.

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