As the sporting landscape continues to evolve and grow, and female players and teams get more attention — as they should — I hope those players and coaches understand that criticism isn’t sexist.
The Women’s World Cup of Soccer kicked off in France this past weekend. For the first time, the tournament has expanded from 16 countries to 24. That is great. The women’s game is growing globally and having more countries involved will have more young girls striving and dreaming about playing for their country. It is great to see young girls have more female sporting heroes to look up to.
Yesterday the #1 ranked United States clobbered Thailand 13-0. The Americans are a juggernaut. They are very good and a blowout was expected. I have no issue with them scoring 13 goals. Thailand knew it would be a tough game, but you don’t get better unless you play better competition.
I think it is unfair to ask the USA to not try their best, or hold back, and not dominate Thailand. The American women worked equally hard to get to the World Cup. They spent hours practicing, watching video and sacrificing their family and social lives, among other things. That is the reality of trying to be the best in your sport.
So when they are on the biggest stage in women’s soccer, I wouldn’t expect them to not try their best. In fact, if they didn’t I think it would be a disservice to themselves and their opposition.
My only issue was the needless, excessive post-goal celebrations.
Here is 33-year-old veteran Megan Rapinoe after she made it 9-0 in the 78th minute of play. She is the captain of the team. She has won the World Cup before.
9-0 goal? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/A4ShuOgd7E
— Jon Keen (@JonKeenNLSports) June 11, 2019
Had she did a fist pump, or hugged a teammate because she was excited — okay. But this was way over the top. It was horrible sportsmanship.
But former American star Abby Wambach decided the critiques were sexist.
For all that have issue with many goals: for some players this is there first World Cup goal, and they should be excited. Imagine it being you out there.This is your dream of playing and then scoring in a World Cup. Celebrate.Would you tell a men’s team to not score or celebrate?
— Abby Wambach (@AbbyWambach) June 11, 2019
Abby, I’m sorry, but I didn’t see many complaining about the score. It was about the celebrations. Also, if you think men have never been criticized for overzealous celebrations you are grossly mistaken.
It is disappointing you tried to use the gender card. If your frustration stems from women receiving lower pay than the men, then let’s talk about that, because that is a worthwhile discussion. But don’t conflate criticism with equality. The two are very different issues.
This was about a terrible celebration. That’s it. Nothing more.
Also, I could understand if one of the women got really excited after scoring her first World Cup goal, regardless of the score of the game, but Rapinoe isn’t a rookie and it wasn’t her first goal. She has 44 International goals.
This is how sports works. Adulation is part of it, but at times, so it criticism.
You can’t have one without the other. If you want to be noticed for your great sporting achievements, as all women should, then you have to understand that when a team shows bad sportsmanship, people will call them on it.
It isn’t a gender-based complaint.
The irony is that one of the most memorable World Cup celebrations occurred in 1999 when Brandi Chastain scored the winning goal for USA to win the World Cup. She was applauded for it, and rightfully so.
The difference between Rapinoe’s celebration and Chastain’s in ’99, is obvious. The importance of the goals isn’t comparable.
The women’s team went overboard in their celebrations against Thailand, and are receiving criticism for it — just like male athletes do.
To Abby and others: this isn’t about gender, it is about sportsmanship.