We need to understand how important the recently concluded 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup was and grasp its impact on women’s football on current and future generations of fans.
We need to acknowledge there are people always ready to come forward to show their support towards women playing football, even though they might not be primarily fans of the gendered branch of the sport or even the game itself.
At least, that was how I felt after attending the final between England and Spain at Stadium Australia, where 75,784 spectators were present to witness the spectacle. The official result was Spain winning 1-0 on the pitch but the real result could be off it, which its “Beyond Greatness" tagline may have intended that from the very beginning.
That tagline was open to interpretations, whatever that may suit the local context or narrative of the women’s football scene in countries around the world, regardless if they played in this year’s edition or not.
It could also mean all professional, semi-pro, amateur and aspiring female footballers across all age groups trying to pave their way towards their own greatness.
For me, "Beyond Greatness" could be defined in memorable moments and stories of this World Cup. Whether it was Colombia handing a shock defeat to two-time champions Germany, debutants Morocco reaching the knockout stage, the whole of Australia following the Matildas’ journey or the Spanish ladies overcoming their internal crises to be crowned the new champions, the tournament had it all.
All those great events happening before our eyes sparked reactions and conversations, such as those I had with football supporters outside the stadium after the final.
Spanish fans said they had mixed feelings about their national team’s success, worrying how it possibly further cemented the position of head coach Jorge Vilda, whose managerial style was marred by controversy, but they acknowledged their players' great performances throughout the campaign.
As for the Lionesses' supporters, I saw male fans hugging each other in tears over their country’s heartbreaking loss. It was sad to witness that moment but at the same time, it was uplifting because it showed they cared.
Best of all, some of those who went to the final were neither Spanish nor English fans, but they still wanted to be part of the massive crowd to celebrate and support women’s football.
When I came back from Australia, I also experienced the impact of the World Cup at my own home as my seven-year-old nephew asked me about my trip. Of course, I was happy to share my stories.
He then further asked if it was true that most of the Spain players were playing for Barcelona. I did not ask where he got the info from - it could be from the news or his own football coach or even out of his own curiosity - but it delighted me to see him being interested to know more about the women’s game.
Meanwhile, days after its conclusion, the World Cup was still being talked about, unfortunately, for the wrong reasons due to Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales’ inappropriate actions during the trophy presentation.
However, thanks to him, women’s football got the attention it rightfully deserved and needed, with fans calling for his resignation and demanding more respect to be shown to female footballers. More than just conversations, I could feel the start of a revolution.
Comunicado Oficial. Agosto 25, 2023. pic.twitter.com/4OqhqwwJ8P— Jenn1 Hermos0 (@Jennihermoso) August 25, 2023
Whatever happens in women’s football in the coming years, when we look back in the future, I’m sure we will pinpoint this World Cup as one of the starting points.