A Scottish Win at Hampden
I didn’t think I’d be writing about football today, but Oh! Wasn’t it wonderful? A stadium bursting with over 18,000 people, smashing both previous records and the prediction of 10,000 from manager Shelly Kerr, a halftime display of girls’ 5-a-side, joy and friendliness and shared selfies. A walk home without fear of the crowds, or having to plan your journey to the minute to avoid waiting along at train stations.
And an absolutely cracking game.
Nobody is claiming that a well-attended football match means women have equality (and certainly not within the game itself, with salaries, sponsorship and coverage woefully lacking), but throughout today my conversations, meetings and online interactions have been punctuated with shared glee at the result, the crowd, the overheard conversations, the appearance of Sturgeon, and the general feeling of excitement untinged with threat.
Having been to some of the previous matches in smaller grounds, I must admit there was a small, selfish pang of regret for me at the difference. In a crowd of 2,000 you are fairly guaranteed to be sitting within earshot of players’ friends and families. It is easier for the team to hang around afterwards and sign the autograph books (yes, they still exist) thrust at them from their fans. It felt intimate, and personal. Last night as the game ended, hi-vis stewards appeared to ring the pitch and stadium staff shepherded people towards the exits.
But that is a sign of the squad finally getting the crowds and the support they deserve. And the crowd was phenomenal – roaring in support then sitting down and looking round to make sure they weren’t blocking anyone’s view. As I was leaving the stadium last night, a group of men near me were discussing the match. They dissected strategic decisions about defender placement, key moments in the game, and what the team need to watch out for in their next fixture against England on June 8th. And at no point did they comment on the game in relation to men’s football, nor give the players a free pass for mistakes made.
There is real unbridled joy in seeing this, perhaps more stereotypical, type of footie fan interspersed with girls’ football teams, brownie and cub troupes, and young families throughout the crowd. The arrival of the youth teams at half time to put on a showcase was met with almost as much cheering as the adult team. As we watched the girls, from as young as 5, play in front of the Hampden crowd, my friends and I turned to each other in amazement.
We recounted the stories of sports in our youth; the dismissal from teachers, the humiliation during PE lessons, the clear understanding that it was ok to have a kickabout at break time, but at some point you had to grow up and stop. In a world full of bad news stories, I am clinging on to the feeling it gave me to see those young players look to the stands and kick towards the goal.
Of course there’s still a long way to go. We know that schools still promote a narrow view of sports, and who can play them. Racism, homophobia, transphobia and ableism mean that many people are excluded from sports both amateur and professional.
This morning the Daily Record chose for their back page to lead with a story of male player’s injury, with the win last night being relegated to inside the paper and the focus of the headline being the record attendance. Of course the attendance was great, but you’d think that the sports section of a national paper might want to focus on the fact that the national team confidently won its last game before the world cup. To single out the Daily Mail would be unfair, of course. All media is terrible on coverage of women’s sport – men’s football makes up about 65% of all sports recording in Scotland, with the women’s game only receiving 2.2% coverage.
Women’s sport only attracts 1% of global sports sponsorship. Articles abound about how brands are missing out on the opportunity to monetise the growing popularity of women’s sports. And yet JD Sports didn’t pause to think before advertising the women’s kit complete with ripped jeans and a sultry pose, and failed to even consider that girls might want a kit, with the children’s strip advertised only for boys.
But let’s put that aside, just for the day. Let’s celebrate the win, the crowd, the message.
Next, to France!