In some ways all women are the same. We bleed every moon until you hit a certain age and then we all get hot flashes. We like sex even though we are told we should not like sex. We have sex. We have babies. White women, brown women, yellow women, black. We are all the same. But, that’s where the similarities end.
When the whole country roars for Canada once every four years or at an Olympics when a group of women kick a ball around, I rarely join in. It’s just like any old hockey game to me. I have little in common with those who play except that we menstruate and can have babies. I am talking about football, what they call soccer in Canada. I will still call it football.
Canada is not a football country. Try all you want. It is the world’s game and that football world does not include Canada you see. Except amongst a small minority that live in discrete pockets around the country; mostly in Toronto, the football world was never embraced by Canada. It does not know how. I don’t understand why Canada bid for these games when we could not even provide a proper grass surface. But most of Canadian mainstream media went nuts going on about the wonderful Canadian women’s team; even the coach got on board writing a column about the team every day in a sports section. Some articles talked about the revolution and evolution of the women’s game but only through Canadian eyes seeing Canadian women in a country that couldn’t give a bollocks about football. Despite best intentions, they seemed hollow and dishonest to me. And worse, unwelcoming to the women of the world. Media choreographed to draw as many Canadian eyes to the TV screen. Mostly white eyes in a mostly white country.
I daresay Toronto being the most multicultural and least white city in Canada, if not the world, is where football is most celebrated in all of North America. Not one single game in this women’s world cup is being played in Toronto. In my case it’s not necessarily that I want to watch Canada but the likes of Nigeria, Cameroon, even Japan, Korea, Brazil.
Here’s the thing. This world cup is not about Canada. Canada who will forever carry the shame of having made the women of the world play on plastic matting that has green weird stuff on it. Plastic stuff that heats up like a stove top and make your feet so hot that it’s nasty uncomfortable. Canada has no business tooting its own horn when it did not even have the decency to give the world a watered field of grass.
World Cups are called World Cups because they are about the world. There was something weird about eyeballing the Canadian team over and over because it reinforced that the media was out of touch with the international nature of football, choosing jingoism instead.
The coverage, as much as the grounds, just seems super artificial. And the weekend’s opening games didn’t help. The big European teams thrashed newcomers from poorer countries with tiny football budgets. Except for New Zealand which was beaten 1-0 by Netherlands the others were non-European or non-Western. Ivory Coast, China, Thailand. Joke is it was a last minute soft penalty shot which will remain controversial that won Canada that game against China which would’ve ended drawn. Cathal Kelly wrote a fine piece on that and in the comments section and on twitter he got beat up by the “see Canada do Canada” league.
But despite my worst fears that the games would die an early death, I’d been dreaming of African football as I always do when I hear of a World Cup and football. You see it’s an old tradition. Every world cup I thrill at the Africans who come to the party and always give so much joy. Old habits die hard and I’ve been counting on the Africans. I was not looking to Canada or Germany for that. It was Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Cameroon. I needed my fix. But looking at my twitter feed or indeed the local papers it felt like I was the only person in Canada who had turned their mind towards African teams. Next to nothing was written about them in the media. Oshoala and Sunday are in town but no one interviews them or their coach. But the Canadian coach writes daily in the papers over and over about the same team? Will they profile Gaelle Enganamouit after she became the first African player to score a hat-trick at a senior World Cup?
After the thrashing that Ivory Coast took at hands of Germany I worried that economics had a hand in this. That the low budgets and dearth of facilities of poorer countries would scuttle their progress. But I need not have worried. Because the Africans always deliver. Monday was opening day of the Women’s World Cup. It was not Saturday and not on Sunday. But when Sunday came to play on Monday. Nigeria. Cameroon. The party started on Monday. Budget or no budget, the Africans always bring an unbeatable spirit to the games that you don’t see in any of the other teams. And that changes everything.
It is indeed the Football World Cup and Nigeria and Cameroon are in the house. Rejoice. Football always wins in the end. And here’s to the women of the World.