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The place of women in the world of football: Critical reflections about the Brazilian case

Copyrights: Agência Brasil Fotografias

The place of women in the world of football: Critical reflections about the Brazilian case

Introducing an article series focusing on women's football in the world-famous footballing nation of Brazil, from past to present, and looking into the future.

The legitimacy of major sports organisations, such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), is under constant threat because of corruption, doping and other issues related to bad governance, lack of transparency and non-democratic practices. In order to improve their legitimacy, many actions are taken, including setting goals to achieve gender equality. Nowadays, welcoming women has become a condition for major international sports movements to remain alive, prosperous, and legitimate.

It is neither easy nor quick to make the world of football accept, respect, invest and provide good conditions for women to be more present in it.

Theoretically, great steps are taken to foster fairer and more diversified football. In 2016, the FIFA Congress amended their statute to agree to promote football regardless of gender and age, and to state FIFA´s intention to combat any kind of discrimination by committing to gender equality actions.

In practice, only small progress took place. According to Law in Sport the cash prize for World Cup winners in France (2019) is 10% of what was offered to winners at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. In addition to this, the funds offered by FIFA to prepare women's teams that qualified for the tournament is 32% of the value given for the same purpose among men's teams that qualified for the World Cup in 2018.

Looking back, there is considerable but limited progress after a long period of great difficulties that includes sexism, prejudice, prohibitions and even criminalization of women’s football:

  • The German Football Federation (DFB) prohibited clubs and stadiums to accept women and their game from 1955 to 1970
  • The English Football Association (FA) banned women’s football for a longer period, from 1921 to 1971
  • In Brazil, women were prohibited by law from playing football from 1941 to 1979

This highlights a difficult reality that hindered women's access to football in these and many other countries. After the end of the bans, women's football returned in a precarious structure that has finally improved after years of men and women struggling for greater female presence on the field.

The improvements can be seen in the FIFA World Cups. Compared to the World Cup in 2015, there is an additional $50 million available to prepare the 24 teams competing in France in 2019 and an additional $15 million to reward winners.

In addition to this, there are mass advertising campaigns, exclusive uniforms and products for women's football fans, equality of prizes offered by Adidas to their sponsored teams, more media channels covering and broadcasting live matches among other facts that reflect the change in the status of women's football globally.

Regarding the future, the scenario is better than before but there is still a long way to go in order to provide girls and women from all over the world access, structure, and recognition to play for leisure or professional purposes.

The current transformation of women's football is complex and requires the active participation of different stakeholders. It is a challenge that goes beyond the stadium with the potential to revolutionise not only the world of football but the understanding of women's place in modern society.

This article series will focus on Brazil, a well-established footballing nation, having won 5 Men's FIFA World Cups. The following three articles will provide critical analysis of the past and present, and discuss achievable futures for women in the "football country”. Brazil will be used as a starting point to discuss global problems and solutions. The articles hopes to foster the interest of readers to understand, to research, and to collaborate in this positive transformation process that reaches its peak with the World Cup in France that is currently underway.

  • Ana Costa is a journalist and researcher at the German University of Sport. She is currently writing her master's thesis on the process of personal brand building of German and Brazilian football team national players.


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Ana Costa


Tuesday, June 25, 2019 - 10:59