Changing the tide: FIFA Women’s World Cup

Sports is never just sports. It is a showcase of the unique skills and personalities of amazing individuals. As beloved as it is, sporting events have garnered massive influence in society, and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup is proof of this. Due to the immense popularity of athletes competing in these sporting events, the event raised awareness for social issues and pushed for progressive advocacies. This year’s Women’s World Cup aimed to recognize women as individuals who are as amazing and inspiring as their male counterparts.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup is a quadrennial sporting event where women from all over the world represent their countries, display their footballing prowess, and compete at the highest level in the hopes of being crowned world champions. The 2019 edition of the tournament was hosted in France, home of the current men’s champions of the tourney. The event was a spectacle like no other with outstanding matches, shattered records, and dramatic storylines unfolding.

But the highlight of the event were the women, who walked into the tournament with a chip on their shoulders, determined to prove that their division deserved the same attention and admiration that the men’s division garnered. Without a doubt, each and every participant walked away brimming with pride, as the event achieved an unprecedented success.

Popularity in numbers

Walking into the tournament, a specter loomed over the women’s footballing division. Questions regarding its popularity and ability to put on a spectacle dominated the build up to the tourney. Ultimately, it was up to the women to prove that their division was not only alive but also thriving. In the end, by all measures, they succeeded.

The 2019 Women’s World Cup broke records in terms of viewership. Despite concerns over the tournament’s popularity, FIFA secured a host of TV deals who agreed to air the tournament on primetime slots. FIFA estimated that the viewer count of the women’s edition of the tourney would break the billion mark for the first time ever.

Football crazy nations, England and the Netherlands, both experienced peak television viewership during the matches of their respective women’s national teams. The last round of 16 match, between Brazil and France, became the most watched women’s football match of all time, with over 59 million tuning in.

The massive popularity manifested itself on social media as well. The accounts of the FIFA Women’s World Cup hit 433 million views over the course of the tournament, as they gained two million additional followers, and a host of social media interaction under their official hashtags.

The stars of the tournament reaped the benefits and became bonafide worldwide superstars both on and off the pitch. Captain of the United States (US) national team, Alex Morgan, sits on eight million followers on Instagram and a combined 7,300,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter. The immense social media support for these women allowed another member of the US national team, Megan Rapinoe, to oppose the President US Donald Trump on the country’s current political climate, receiving overwhelming support from the public.

Bags of action at the biggest stage

The recent World Cup undoubtedly shattered everyone’s expectations. With each tournament being held every four years, the anticipation of such is expected—alongside the fact that this iteration of the tournament is far from a bust. With that in mind, mind-blowing performances from different matches continue to overwhelm the spectators by storm.

In what has been noted as the highlight of their campaign, the US Women’s Soccer team steamrolled the crestfallen Thailand, 13-0. The matchup was lopsided from start to finish as Morgan scored five goals, the record for most goals in a single women’s game. Even in the face of criticism, the unfazed Americans did not back down as they bolstered their goal difference further.

In another anticipated matchup, the hosts went up against the previous champions in an important quarter-final showdown. It was more than just a game of who will advance to the next round—the stadium was packed despite soaring ticket prices as bragging rights were at stake. Although the hosts were eager to dethrone the number one team in the world, the hot streaking Rapinoe put them to shame with two goals to raise their white flag, 2-1.

In a match that might have solidified mainstream women’s football, England and the US fought it out in a game of epic proportions. Besides the heartbreaking English defeat under a penalty circumstance, the match itself garnered a whopping 11.7 million viewers—a testament to the fact that larger audiences have tuned in for these matches.

Looking forward

The eye-popping figures are quantitative representations of the growing appreciation for the women’s division in football. Sponsorships are pouring in and the interest in investing in more leagues for women is continuing to soar. All signs point to the fact that the women are sprinting in the right direction, and that the future of the division is promising.

The specter looming over the division is long gone. The facts prove that the women are receiving the attention they deserve. In the end, that is much bigger than any sporting championship, which makes every single participant of the 2019 Women’s World Cup a victor.

This year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup gives off the feeling that a corner is being turned. A sport long dominated by men is finally sharing the spotlight with women. This goes beyond sports; this is a representation of the fact that times are changing. We are finally moving into a world where regardless of gender, even athletes are celebrated for their skills and talents.

UAAP Season 81 Women’s Rookie of the Year and DLSU Lady Booter Shai Del Ocampo says it best in an interview with The LaSallian, “It wasn’t just about kicking the ball or scoring goals, there was more behind the game. There were issues tackled that wasn’t really openly talked about. It’s great to see how players in the Women’s World Cup stood out and wanted to make a change. They made people aware of what [the players] and all women in sports really deserve.”

Rob Matibag

By Rob Matibag

Nico Meer

By Nico Meer

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