The women’s football World Cup is coming to New Zealand & Australia. The biggest sport in the world is bringing its female showcase to Aotearoa.
That’s massive on its own, rightfully.
But it wasn’t until I read this tweet from Sky Stadium CEO Shane Harmon that it really dawned on me:
New Zealand will host the women’s @cricketworldcup @rugbyworldcup and @FIFAWWC over the next three years. Gigantic opportunity for women’s sport and New Zealand in the world stage. How good @grantrobertson1!!
— Shane Harmon (@ShaneHarmon) June 25, 2020
This is so incredible. In such quick succession, Kiwis will get to see the very best female athletes across three of our favourite national sports (coronavirus notwithstanding).
Bids for these events are often chosen not only for the infrastructure and ability to deliver a world-class tournament, but also for community engagement and legacy projects – how will the respective sport grow from having had this exposure in your country? How will the local community benefit?
I get emotional thinking about the answers to that. How young girls in this country will get to witness strong, athletic, talented women living their sporting dreams, some of them with the fern on their chest. How those who are playing cricket, rugby and football will see what’s possible for them, with application and dedication. How girls who don’t play those sports, or any sports, get to witness females centre stage, hear and watch the stories of these strong female characters in the very best version of reality TV, live sport.
We’ve hosted the women’s cricket World Cup before. But there’s something in the air around women’s sport at the moment. While there’s still some way to go, we’re standing on a platform of contracts, sponsorship, broadcasting and visibility we’ve never had before.
When I say we, I don’t mean women. I mean all of us. Sure, if you can see it, you can be it, but the flip side of that is men and boys in this country seeing women’s sport profiled legitimately, for the compelling and entertaining game it is. Watching and learning what their sisters, girlfriends, mothers can do, given the chance.
One question I’ve always wanted to ask people who say they “love the game” (whatever sport it may be) – do you love the game, or just the men’s version of the game?
Often, women’s sport is said to be slower, not as entertaining as the men’s edition because females don’t run as fast, can’t hit the ball as far, aren’t as strong as men. (Congratulations, pal, you understand basic biology.) But that’s missing the point.
For precisely those reasons, women’s sport is different. The strategy, skill and execution is there. The creativity is there. The rivalries, the passion and stories are all there. They all come together to manifest in a great sporting occasion. Once you get your head around the fact that the women’s version of your favourite sport is a different product, not men-lite, you’ll see just how great women’s sport is.
The next few years will prove that. We as a country have the chance to prove that. The importance of these three world cups can’t be overstated. The impact they will have on sports lovers in this country is huge. What it will mean to fans and players – past, present and future – has the potential to be long lasting. In 15-20 years time, I can’t wait to hear out of the mouths of emerging male and female players “I started playing because I went to a World Cup game as a kid.”
And if you don’t believe me about how big this is, ask Ali Riley.
— Ali Riley (@RileyThree) June 25, 2020
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