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Even for those who know me, the revelation that I used to play FIFA against my brother (and fail miserably) would be something of a surprise. I also used to enjoy playing football at high school on the rare occasion we were allowed to do anything other than dodgeball. I wasn’t particularly good at it but I remember scoring a few goals. But for my whole life the sport has been dominated by men, even in e-sports such as FIFA. From this winter, however, that is set to change as FIFA 16 moves to include female players in its computer game for the first time.
A positive step, of course, except the general public doesn’t seem to agree. The announcement was met with tweets such as ‘your star striker has been ruled out for 9 months due to pregnancy’ or ‘a player may have a bad game coz of her period.’ It is appalling that these views were even thought of let alone tweeted, favourited and retweeted multiple times. It seems to unearth just how far we have left to go in terms of equality not only in sport but in wider society more generally. Closer to home, it was only last month that a Lancaster student was punished for sexist chants against the University of York’s women’s water polo team members. At a moment where such a big inter-varsity competition should be celebrating equality for all genders in sport, it came crashing down with one allegation.
The sporting world has not just stood by, however, and for this it has to be congratulated. Sport England’s national campaign #ThisGirlCan has endeavoured to encourage all women, no matter their age or fitness levels, to get involved in sport; the 2015 Women’s World Cup is being shown on terrestrial television this summer; and more sporting celebrities than ever are openly discussing what it is like to be a sportswoman. In an age with the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill, Beth Tweddle, Paula Radcliffe and plenty of others achieving the highest standards of their sport that they possibly can, it seems almost backwards that such pervasive sexist views are still being perpetrated.
The widespread opposition to FIFA 16’s inclusion of women in its game is simply irrational. Even if men are still dominating the game, both in the real world and the world of computer games, the fact that FIFA 16 is acknowledging the massive increase in women playing football should be commended. Since 1993, the number of women playing football in professional competitions has risen from 10,400 to 147,000. That’s nearly 15 times more women playing football, and such an increase has been duly acknowledged by FIFA. At a time when FIFA is under severe scrutiny because of corruption allegations and Sepp Blatter’s resignation, this is one shining light in the sport and it certainly encourages me that women can do sport, and can do it well. To deride the makers of FIFA 16 for this move is to deride women in sport, which is blatantly wrong. However, as this is probably my final article for SCAN ever, I’m going to be optimistic: sexism is being beaten, and the derogatory views being expressed against the inclusion of women in FIFA 16 are, I hope, the views of narrow-minded fans of the game who cannot face the truth that women are just as good as men at sport and deserve equal recognition.