June 10, 2019

Why Girls’ Goals Matter On and Off The Pitch

My 7 year old daughter drew this picture whilst we were watching England women play their first match in the Women’s World Cup.

I kept glancing at it through the match. Something felt odd about it.

And now I’ve realised what it is: I would never have drawn a picture of a woman playing football when I was 7 because I HAD NEVER SEEN A WOMAN PLAY FOOTBALL.

That thought stopped me in my tracks. In 1982, when I was 7, I was, as my best friend calls me, an FMG: Football Mad Girl. I was desperate to play but there were no clubs for me.

Girls didn’t play football. Asian girls absolutely didn’t play football. My mother tried her best but if you’ve grown up in Bangladesh knowing where to find a football club for your tomboy daughter in pre-internet days wasn’t easy. I was Bend It Like Beckham before Bend It Like Beckham (just sayin’).

No wonder I would never have drawn a picture of a woman playing football. I cried when I saw a black South African women score a goal yesterday - if you had told me when I was 7 that was possible my head would have started spinning.

I see these fantastic women showing us what we dreamed of.

I see in sharp relief what we have been missing - whether it’s women’s sport treated with respect or television with female characters full of depth like Killing Eve - and I feel joy but also anger for all the missed opportunities for so many women.

If you see a woman achieving when you are a girl, then you will think that’s possible for you. It doesn’t cross my daughter’s mind that playing World Cup football is beyond her because she’s seen women do it.

This is what girls draw when they see women take their place in the world. After the match I asked what my daughter what she thought about how it used to be for girls like me who wanted to play football all those years ago. What did she say? ‘Well that was really mean.’ Quite, my dear, quite. But not, I hope, for you.