We have been talking all the past two weeks about how the Australian-New Zealand joint bid won to host FIFA’s 2023 Women’s World Cup. However, it’s understandable as its announcement is not only impacting for Australian football or the Oceania continent, but perhaps, women’s football as a whole.
As things are now with the Coronavirus pandemic, the 2023’s World Cup could create a new paradigm in global sport, a more meaningful role for sport in society by following the lead of athletes worldwide and making public, advocate contributions to important issues. Thanks to the courage of the Matildas (Australia’s national women soccer team) , who believed in their right to non-discrimination and took on both Football Federation Australia and FIFA for financial parity, 2023 is being sold as the World Cup of gender equality.
Now, it’s time for FIFA, the FFA, the World Cup tournament, as well as the rest of football federations across the world, to follow their lead.
Gender equality has always been a huge point of discussion when talking about women in sport (apart from football). Of course, other issues such as racism are also need to be tackle. Yet, it seems the world of sports (football in this case) lacks of decision making, as the huge and important federations cling to outdated and damaging notions of exceptionalism.
Sport’s reckoning is to acknowledge that it does not exist independent of the society that sustains it and claims of exceptionalism and neutrality ring hollow. We are all equally affected, and equally obliged. In this context, we need to wonder: Should be the social dividend of 2023, beyond the economics, the uplift in players, new infrastructure for the sport? How can a World Cup actually help the world of football?
The rise in women’s sport still has to progress and bring a broader change; so, clearly, it will be glorious to see Australia’s women in football shine as the lights brighten in the next three years. But, with a little effort (and some help from the men’s side clubs and federations), the game can go further.
At a time of economic restructure, now is the time to bring women’s football into line with men’s. A plan should be made for gender equality across the entire game, and a road map to get there. Yet, we need to take into account that 2023’s World Cup is not simply going to create equality just like that.
But if things are taken correctly, this upcoming Women’s World Cup could help shape a better world around them through football’s incredible social power, including Indigenous Australian culture and reconciliation, climate change education and commitment to action, multiculturalism and human rights, such as equality.
Of course, this World Cup will surely have a bigger impact on the Australian women’s game. Australia’s Indigenous culture is mentioned in the Bid document under human rights and stakeholder engagement. But this is a unique opportunity to be led by Indigenous Australia to ensure that Australia’s public face of 2023 represents their ancient, unresolved past. Work should begin immediately on what a modern Australian (and NZ) World Cup should look like, culturally.
Furthermore, collaboration with the Uluru Statement Expert Panel and formal support of the document, as well as consultation with former and current Indigenous legends of the game can explore how to carry first nations’ culture to Australia, and the watching world. If equality is to be the slogan, then it must extend to the first inhabitants of this land.
Anyhow, racism and intolerance has escalated during COVID-19. But diversity is the essence of the global game and it is noticeable that the prime minister, Scott Morrison, trumpeted Australia’s 200 cultures in his communique prior to the announcement. Surely, this World Cup is an opportunity to demonstrate not just their multicoloured composition, but the deep commitment to multiculturalism and rejection of any attempts to divide.
Meanwhile, athletes are also trained to carry the load, support the team, accept responsibility, yet sport as a social sector shirks its own. This 2023 Women’s World Cup should be the “Green World Cup”; a tournament that partners with environmentally responsible companies, spreads the need for action, that empowers athletes to speak up and encourages all sport to join the global fight for a sustainable future.
Fifa’s slogan is “For the Game: For the World”.
The first part takes care of itself. But standing “for the world”, now that is incredibly exciting and I’d like to believe that football, as the game that connects Australia to the world, possesses the moral courage on behalf of the country. It’s a bold agenda, but certainly no bolder than the Matildas taking on their own Federation, and FIFA, to create a foundation of equality for which a home World Cup is their reward.
In the end, high time for the world’s largest sport, and all others, to accept their share of global, social responsibilities. A unite game for men’s and women’s, but more importantly… shouldn’t be a “World Cup” be truly “for the world”?