Do you remember 2018? As a huge football fan, I do.
That year, France won the World Cup in Russia. All throughout France, we heard the songs of victory, whether we were at home, or with hundreds of thousands people on the Champs-Elysées. It was an historic year for French sports fans.
2019 is too: like their male counterparts, the Women’s French football team is trying to recreate this achievement during the first Women’s Football World Cup organized by France.
Historically, it’s only the 8th iteration of FIFA Women’s World Cup. Although football has always been very popular in Europe, women struggled to have the right to play as men did. Although 12,000 people attended the France-England game in 1920, women’s soccer disappeared in the 1930s and was forbidden because it was considered “harmful to women”. Despite this, women kept playing soccer and women’s soccer was officially recognized by the French, English, and German federations in 1970. The same year, the first women’s World Cup was organized in Italy and won by Denmark. Eight teams participated in this competition.
Women’s soccer has come a long way since the 1920s; 24 teams competed in the 2019 women soccer World’s Cup in France.
The competition has met expectations from a sporting point of view, as well as from a statistical point of view. For example, France opened the competition with a huge victory: 4-0 against South Korea in front of 45,261 spectators, an attendance record for France’s Bleues.
More than the results, I’m impressed by the enthusiasm throughout the country. I had the chance to be in Valenciennes a few hours before the match between England and Cameroon. I was at the Place d’Armes, where the FIFA village is installed. I could feel the excitement of the fans, who had put on their team shirts, and were enjoying the FIFA village festivities. Some Cameroonian fans were making videos of their friends playing soccer on a small field. I immediately recognized the English fans, who were singing the English soccer anthem “Three Lions” to support their team. It was great to see fans of different teams joking together and celebrating such an event.
The next day, I was at the Parc des Princes in Paris to watch Sweden versus Canada. It was the first time I had gone to a World Cup match, and it was really different from any match I’ve seen in my life. I was surprised to see how the fans were mixed. Generally, fans of different teams sit at opposite sides of the stadium, but I was surrounded by Canadians on my left as well as Swedish people on my right. They were taking selfies and just seemed happy to be there. They all stood up and applauded both national anthems. When Sweden scored, Canadians encouraged their team even more. As a neutral fan, I enjoyed watching a soccer game and sharing emotions with the fans.
That’s what soccer means to me: It’s a sport which brings people together, and where anything can happen.
I think that, thanks to this World Cup, women’s soccer really improved sports culture in France. People can watch the matches easily and are more engaged. Families travel thousands of kilometers to support their teams and the competition attracts media attention. Women’s soccer deserves to be at the forefront, and I’m grateful that I had the chance to follow this competition in France.
Thank you and well done, ladies!