by Ian Melding
Last week there were 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium watching the Olympic Women’s Football final between the USA and Japan. It was supposed to be a showcase highlighting the quality of the women’s game, but all it did was demonstrate just how far away they are from the level of professionalism that the men’s game has achieved. Sure the women’ game has competitiveness, skill, pace, energy and tons of hard work but it is missing some real key elements.
This disparity became blindingly obvious at the end of the second half. The game was in injury time with the USA leading 2-1 and something very odd was happening. The Americans were still playing, still attacking and still trying to score. They were two minutes away from Olympic gold medals and not one player was on the floor feigning injury and calling for the physio. Not once did they run the ball into the corner trying to waste time. They were trying to score goals, in added time, at Wembley, in the biggest game they will ever play in their career. Madness!
That just compounded a few things that hadn’t really been right all game. Alarm bells started ringing in the first half when the referee didn’t award Japan what looked a clear penalty and nothing happened. The Japanese players didn’t surround the referee screaming abuse into her face. The referee didn’t need to jog backwards for 50 meters whilst being pursued by a group of players pointing their fingers and spitting obscenities. There were just a few brief appeals and then they got on with the game. Have they even seen proper football? Did they not really want to win?
During the game there were a few wince inducing tackles, but the players got up and carried on. There was no rolling around screaming, no teammates ran in to support the fouled player by waving imaginary cards at the referee. The only time one of the players ended up on the grass was when they were tripped or knocked over. No one bought a free kick, there was no clever play and when any player felt contact they didn’t seem to know that they should throw themselves on the floor and try and win a set-piece. Make an effort girls, this is basic stuff that happens week in week out in proper football!
Further proof that these players had no idea of how to be real footballers was shown up when the fourth official indicated there was only 2 minutes added time at the end of the game. 2 Minutes! Imagine a game played with so few stoppages that there were only 2 minutes of added time at the end, Sir Alex would still be looking to win his first league title!
It wasn’t just the players that seemed totally unaware of what to do and how to act; the crowd were equally as clueless as to what their role should be. When the referee failed to award Japan the clear penalty, not one fan stood up out of their seat screamed abuse until it looked like the veins in their neck would explode. Not once did someone get behind their team by shouting ‘F**K OFF YOU!’ and at no point did the crowd enquire as to the identity of the ononist in the black. Admittedly, the crowd didn’t get it totally wrong. The cacophony of booing that followed the announcement that the medals would be presented by the one man manilla envelope industry, Sepp Blatter, was heartwarming.
Women’s football? Pah, it’s not even the same game.