My body is tense
But I’m going to try and take a breath, ignore it, use as few expletives as possible and turn what feels like white hot anger at an ill-informed and naïve group that are taking joy in talking down the Women’s World Cup, and gently suggest how they can get behind England's Lionesses this summer.
For the the record, I’m Ben, my main job is to make video content at 90min.
A tiny bit more background. About two years ago, I went to watch a couple of women’s games at Chelsea - though I’m definitely not a Chelsea fan. A few months down the line, I produced a mini documentary with a player called Erin Cuthbert. We followed a day in her life - one that involved training, media duties, recovery, followed by a swift trip home to crack on with an assignment for the degree she was studying for whilst also playing professional football.
I remember being so impressed by how driven she was, how fun she was, how she juggled study and her career, how much she loved football and how fondly she spoke about her family and how they had supported her move down to London from Scotland.
Over the next few weeks as a Tottenham fan, I found myself in the bizarre situation of being drawn to following every Chelsea Women’s game on television, on Facebook or on BBC Sport.
I found myself supporting everything Erin did, hoping she’d get a chance off the bench to get onto the pitch and shine. This week, nearly two years on from the first time we met, I watched her shine again - only this time it was in her first ever World Cup game for Scotland.
What an incredible support and atmosphere created last night from the travelling Scotland fans. Thank you to every of you who made the long journey out to Nice gbsctgbsctgbsct We pick ourselves up and go again on Friday. Next Up, Japan in Rennes pic.twitter.com/9MvrfHrdwY— Erin Cuthbert (@erincuthbert_) June 10, 2019
Since first meeting Erin, we began to create more content around the WSL, as well as England’s women’s squad - the Lionesses. And o
The next bit you already know. England go on to win 2-1 (GET IN...sorry Erin) more than six million watch the match on BBC, and there are some moments (in particular one passage of England play) which have gone viral.
Then, the next bit you already know as well.
As someone who cares a lot about the women’s game, I was a little reluctant to tumble too far into the dark rabbit hole social media can take you down.
"She should be in the kitchen"
"The women’s game is sh*t"
"The quality is awful"
‘"Why is this on television?"
"She doesn’t know what she’s talking about"
Forgive me for being direct, but it's this fundamental lack of understanding around 'quality' I want to address in particular.
There are so many other battles for other days: equal pay, the lack of marketing and investment, the amount of catch up women’s football has to play, social media coverage, major sponsors, broadcasting, the list goes on and on. But as I said, I particularly want to focus on the ‘no one cares, the quality isn’t good enough’ rhetoric.
The problem here is nothing to do with the 'quality' or standard of women’s football. The problem is clowns on Twitter lazily calling a game they’ve never taken more than five minutes to invest in ‘sh*t’ or a game that millions are watching ‘irrelevant.’ I’m going to park the talk around ‘investing’ for now, we’ll come on to that later.
The very nature of people talking about the ‘quality’ of the women’s game is when you think about it - ridiculous. The size of the hypocrisy in these stupidly put together 'hot takes', particularly from blokes who spout this sort of BS, makes Mount Everest look like a speedbump. The truth people need to wrap their head around is, as football fans, the idea of loving football because of ‘quality’ is completely misleading.
If any of us seriously wanted to make an argument that we love football for ‘quality’, why on earth do any of us turn out to play five-a-side? Why do we bother watching teams who are not winning? Why do any of us turn out on a Sunday morning when it’s freezing cold in winter with odd socks, barely clean kit and boots with holes in? Why do we encourage people in their golden years to play walking football? Why do we encourage our children to play football at under-six level?
My dad turned up, week in, week out, to watch me play when I was six. I can guarantee the ‘quality’ was absolute garbage. Thank the lord my dad wasn’t a Twitter nut who instantly took to his 280 character, 14 follower echo chamber to then @ a six-year-old me to explain that I was crap, useless and not worthy of encouragement, or the ability to dream of something bigger.
This is class. Particularly when you see that this is @Lionesses executing exactly what they’ve been preparing for.— Ben Haines (@benhainess) June 11, 2019
Look below to see how this is the kind of overload situations the team were hoping to create.
The true reason we care about football is because we are invested in it. Anyone who genuinely believes in the power of football knows that it doesn’t matter what age, gender, creed or colour you are, there is nothing like watching your team score the winning goal whether it’s on Hackney Marshes or at the World Cup finals.
In the women’s game, there is so much more weight and history to that feeling. In today’s society the fact six million people watched the Lionesses' winning goal against Scotland’s women’s team is special. It means that six million people saw strong, powerful, athletic, passionate women giving everything for their country, which should be celebrated.
So back to being positive. How do we win over those dragging their feet? Well, the good news is it’s not too late to invest in women’s football and the World Cup.
I’m biased obviously but I love the content we get to make with @Lionesses.— Ben Haines (@benhainess) June 11, 2019
They’re always fun, really positive and a great laugh. Here’s @AlexGreenwood on excellent form today. Roll on the Argentina game! #FIFAWWC #Lionesses pic.twitter.com/61ZxKbFVaU
if you are one of the people who has been bashing the Women’s World Cup, my suggestion is, take the five minutes that’s been used negatively out of your day to instead positively invest in your Lionesses. Invest in 24 elite English athletes who love representing YOU, who feel nothing but complete pride in wearing the three lions. Invest in wanting England to win the World Cup for them and for you.
Get behind them, and take joy in the fact that somebody you support is doing something so incredibly special at such an important time in our sport. Celebrate their goals like you celebrate ANY goal. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram like you would any other player.
Take joy in them winning and feel hurt when they lose, and I promise you, once you start truly supporting this incredible group of people, you’ll find it baffling that you never did it sooner.