Why you should watch the Women's World Cup
EA Sports' recent timing couldn't have been better. Amidst all of the badassery of the Swiss rolling up in Nissan Leafs and SMART Cars to arrest FIFA officials, it was announced that the most popular video game in the world would (finally) include Women's national teams.
While I'm sure FIFA welcomed the timing of the news, they likely had little to do with it. Among FIFA's many deplorable talents lies sexism, at least at its highest level of decision-making. Alex Morgan recently revealed that in 2013, at a gala to honor some of FIFA's best female players, FIFA President Sepp Blatter didn't know who she was. Abby Wambach also reported Blatter mistook her wife for Brazilian football star Marta — the two look NOTHING ALIKE. Of course, there was also Blatter's sober imitation of a drunk Don Draper when he suggested women's soccer would be more marketable if they wore tighter shorts.
The announcement that women's teams are just only now included in FIFA '16 gives credence to the notion that women's soccer is ignored and under-appreciated, but don't let the slimy underbelly of FIFA affirm your misconceptions of women's soccer. It's intense, it's entertaining, and this year's World Cup is going to be damn good.
The perception chasm between men's sports and women's sports is fueled by men being capable of superior athletic ability, thus women's sports of a physical nature can never be on par with what males can produce. In some cases, that's true. The WNBA struggles, in part, because offensive execution isn't as exciting as watching Russell Westbrook shift fault lines with a dunk.
But tennis proves this isn't universally true. In games where the requirement of overt athleticism is perhaps below that of skill and technique, women can entertain just as much as men — often times ever more. Evidence of tennis' attribute hierarchy is a 33-year-old Roger Federer making the athletically gifted 28-year-old Gael Monfils look like he's in a championship fly-swatting competition (he'd so win, btw).
The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has fought for and earned equal prize money in all four majors in 2007. The women's tournament is often more entertaining than the men's because there are so many more high-caliber women's players, even in an era where Serena Williams has been the most dominant athlete of the last 10 years, male or female. The high-quality play of so many women led to a closing of the gap in sponsorship money, opening the door for the WTA's fight for equal pay.
Women's soccer deserves the opportunity to stand in front of that door.
It's odd that the only time America cares about soccer is when the men's national team is leaving its lungs on the field during disappointing but predictable World Cup failures. Soccer isn't a grunt sport. It's nicknamed "the beautiful game" because it takes more than snarling to filter a ball through 11 opponents to score a goal. In terms of the technique required to do so, this U.S. women's team is superior to the men's squad for which we clad ourselves in red, white and blue whatever-we-can-find to support. This is a World Cup we can actually win, and that's testament to the talent of our players.
Sydney Leroux can outrun virtually all of you reading this, and I absolutely include myself in that category. She's a cheetah who hunts goals. Watching her blow by multiple defenders in three strides is a silly sight, and she does it multiple times in every match. Plus, she's really skilled with the ball at her feet. Her speed gives her space, her brain knows what to do with it, and sometimes her athleticism shocks the hell out of the other two to produce something magical.
Megan Rapinoe is a midfield Einstein with the vision of a peregrine falcon, and she is capable of scoring ridiculous goals with either foot. She's also scored from a corner. Like, she kicked the ball from the corner flag and curled it into the goal. In Olympic competition.
Tobin Heath pulled an elastico maneuver out of absolutely nowhere versus Mexico. The move, made famous by Brazilian legend Ronaldinho, basically requires the ability to disengage every ligament in your ankle and use your foot like a bullwhip. It's ridiculous. We don't have a men's player capable of consistently executing the move this perfectly in international competition. And, oh yeah, it led to a goal — the US's fifth against rival Mexico.
Women's soccer deserves the stage to entertain, and our women's national team deserves your support. And for those who think soccer is boring ... didn't you recently give Floyd Mayweather $100?
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