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Sexism and Soccer

I took my children and ex-wife to see the Carolina Courage play last night. The Courage is one of the eight teams in the WUSA, the Women's United Soccer Association. It's the premier professional soccer league for women in the world.

The Courage set a franchise and stadium attendance record tonight. I can't remember the precise figure, but it was somewhere in the range of 6,000. I'm at a loss to understand why this number is so low. Of the Courage players:

  • Danielle Fotopoulos has won a World Cup with the US national team.
  • Carla Overbeck has won two World Cups and an Olympic gold medal with the US national team.
  • Birgit Prinz has won three European Championships with the German national team and was 2001 German Player of the Year.
  • Hege Riise has won a World Cup and an Olympic gold medal with the Norwegian national team.
  • Tiffany Roberts has won a World Cup and an Olympic gold medal with the US national team.
It's rather like going to see Manchester United play: you look out over the field and see world-class player after world-class player. Yet this is in our own backyard, with seats available at every game, no seat costing more than $24.

I don't get it. Women's professional soccer should, by all rights, be far more popular. As the premier women's professional league in the world, the WUSA attracts the best players from the best national teams. They all come here to play. Is their relative lack of popularity due to nothing more than the fact that they're women? If so, that's sad.

My older son, who is something of a sports fan, played his GameBoy during the match, looking up only when the crowd became excited. My younger son read a book. Why? They claimed it was only because the match was boring, but it sure didn't seem that way to most of the fans there. I find myself worried that my own boys may have a sexist attitude when it comes to sports. If true, it's a disappointment, especially in myself -- after all, I've helped raise them and been the primary parent to expose them to sports. If attitudes towards womens' sports are going to change, that change must start at home.

By the way, it was a great game. We played the San Jose CyberRays, who won the league championship last year. Here's a shot of famous penalty kick taker and sports bra wearer Brandi Chastain:

The Courage won 2-1 on a goal in the 88th minute. What a treat!

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