Lloyd Burnard takes a closer look at why the Fifa Women’s World Cup has been good for the game

2011-07-16 00:00

THE Fifa Women’s World Cup ends tomorrow, and I feel that a tribute to what has been a hard-fought and highly competitive series of matches is necessary.

I must confess that the initial news of the showpiece did little to raise my eyebrows, but having followed the tournament closely since the quarter-final stages, I am kicking myself for not doing so sooner.

Anybody who witnessed the phenomenal comeback displayed by the Americans against the Brazilians (who were a lady up at that stage) will know exactly what I am talking about. There was no possible way back for the States in that game. At 2-1 down, they had 10 ladies on the field and some of their players could hardly put one foot in front of the other by the end of injury time.

And then, out of nowhere, Megan Rapinoe whips in a ball that Becks himself would be proud of and Abby Wambach towers above the Brazilian defenders and goalkeeper and heads her side into a penalty shootout. Sport is defined by moments like these. It was something special and I feel privileged to have seen it happen. The States went on to win a dramatic shootout and will compete in tomorrow’s final against a Japanese side that ruined the party by knocking out the German hosts in the quarters.

The competitive nature of the matches has been so clearly evident but, and here’s the thing, the professionalism shown by the competitors has been something that should be enough to turn their male peers red in the face.

Of course, every theory has an exception and the antics of Brazilian defender Erika near the end of that quarter-final (she pretended to be injured and was stretchered off in a time wasting attempt, only to jog straight back onto the field) were disappointing.

That was an isolated incident, though. What has struck me most is that what drives these ladies is, quite simply, getting to the ball ahead of their opponents. When they feel a nudge from an opposing player, they do not fall to the ground in agony holding their ankles and rolling around. That is not what they are there to do. They are there to win the ball with their own feet and play with it — football — something that appears to have slipped down the list of priorities in the men’s game.

And, when a legitimate foul happens — they still do from time to time — the perpetrators have been the first to apologise and offer a helping hand to their victims. Imagine seeing the same in the men’s game as regularly as we have in this tournament. If we did, we could all be forgiven for thinking that we were lovers of a sport played by gentlemen. Alas, something tells me that come August, we will forget all of this and once again be captivated by the adolescent temper tantrums seen from the legless Drogbas, crying Nanis and a sulking Van Persies of the men’s game.

So, congrats and thank you to the ladies, who have shown us that there is still a place for tough, but fair competition in our beloved sport. We look forward to the next one.

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