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13th Jun 2019

The social media reaction to the FIFA Women’s World Cup reveals a lot

Niamh Maher

This all started with a ‘Huge Dick’, but more on that later.

We’re almost a week in to the Women’s World Cup and so far we’ve been treated to some stunning displays of skill and athleticism. We’ve also been blessed with (let’s be frank) embarrassing turns from teams who are clearly out of their depth.

We’ve had record breaking performances, viral dances, Norwegian controversy and Twitter trolls making sure we don’t get too cocky, cool.

This is the eighth Women’s World Cup but it’s fair to say there’s never been the appetite and enthusiasm we’ve seen thus far. The coverage from the world’s media is putting female athletes front and centre and here at home, although we’re not competing, we can be proud that for the first time in the tournament’s history we’re showing every single match free-to-air across RTÉ and TG4.

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Despite the enthusiasm, a massive global tournament like this really hammers home that we still have work to do on the road to respect for female athletes. We have a responsibility to pay attention to the conversations that are happening, let them percolate and move them on.  With that in mind, I want to dissect some of the social media reaction to the World Cup; the good, the bad and the downright dickish.

First up, let’s look at the recent thrashing of Thailand by the US. It was an unprecedented and record breaking 13-0 victory. Celebrations all round, right? Not exactly.

The scoreline itself and performances of the players were quickly overshadowed by the behaviour of the US team. Were their celebrations warranted? Should they have shown more respect to an underdog? Does this show up the whole tournament? These were the questions we were seeing online and once again the narrative of ‘They’re trying their best’ and ‘They’re not as strong as us” seeped in:

If I’m being completely honest, I did cringe at some of the celebrations. I’ve played at international level in my sport and I know what an out and out hammering feels like. In one particular European championship a Scottish opponent was ruthlessly hanging me out to dry. With a bagel looming (in Squash when a player gets no points it’s called a bagel, highly mortifying and not at all sought after) I’m not quite sure what happened, she might have sneezed, but I salvaged a miraculous point in the dregs of the game and celebrated as if I’d won the whole damn thing, much to the horror of every single spectator.

Some context; my opponent was a professional Squash player and as hard as I’d trained to make my national team there was no hope of me beating this woman. It was another day at the office for her and her clinical precision was a testament to her years of training and commitment.

The point of this (fairly embarrassing story) is, I get it! The US took no prisoners but this is the World Cup, why should they? It’s fair to say and important to note that this probably wouldn’t have happened in a men’s World Cup but that is a truer reflection of what FIFA are doing (or not doing) for qualifying pathways and funding in the women’s game. It confirms what needs to be done but above all else it proves that the US team are a ruthless, professional outfit who are out for the cup.

Fair f**king play.

Now, getting back to that ‘Huge Dick’ I promised. On our weekly sports show PlayXPlay we interviewed broadcaster Jacqui Hurley who told us a story of her son and his friend who were locked in an age old battle:

Click on the video below:

The clip sparked a debate online which cause quite a stir:

It gets better:

And for the win:

Big shout out to SportsJOE for handling these comments. I’ve always been told you shouldn’t feed trolls, but when the debate is warranted and it’s something that needs to be tackled we should speak up and not only feed them but shove some facts straight down their throats.

On a brighter note, if you search the hashtag #FIFAWWC on Twitter you’ll mostly find the good stuff:

Online critics will always be there and they have the right to their opinion but it’s up to us, who are covering the World Cup, to push through and not only recognise these athletes but celebrate them. We can’t change the world with one tournament, with one show, or even one tweet but we can continue to fight ignorance on the road to equality.

With that in mind, I’ll leave you with some incredible women who are championing the players and giving honest analysis and airtime to this wonderful tournament: