Do I not like football because of my gender?

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Growing up, I was the only girl amongst three brothers, all of whom loved football. I, however, could not care less for the sport. It is only with age that I have begun to question why, despite being raised in the same football-focused family, that my brothers remain fascinated by the sport and I am not. After all, I was surrounded by the same talk about football – “Who do you think is going to win the Premier League?” and “I heard *insert famous footballer name* is transferring to *insert top football team*”.

I lived around the buzz and excitement of a final match and listened to the screams of my brothers when one of their teams scored a goal. Yet, I could not think of anything worse than having to watch eleven sweaty men kick a ball around for 90 minutes. When I think about my lack of passion for the sport compared to my football-obsessed brothers, I have thought it could be a general dislike. However, the first reason that comes to my mind as to why I am not interested in sports is because of my gender.

Let me clarify that, in modern times, I do not think football is an exclusively male sport. As shown by the recent Women’s World Cup, which was viewed by a combined 1.12 billion viewers throughout the tournament according to a FIFA report, football is universal and is becoming increasingly popular among young girls. However, back in the 2000s when I was growing up, football in my experience was stereotyped and restricted from girls. For example, when my younger brother was growing up, I remember him always being gifted a football for Christmas and birthdays. He was also asked, when he was old enough to understand, which team he would support. I do not recall ever being asked which football team I would support; I was never even considered as someone who should be interested in the sport. I do not think my younger self saw football as an option, simply because I only ever saw men playing and watching it. Why would a girl want to be a part of something that only focused on men? This was not helped by my secondary school’s curriculum, which reserved football only for male pupils. Instead, we were left to play the ‘girl’ classed sports such as netball and hockey. To me, football was a man’s territory; space I was excluded from because I was a girl. I wonder if someone had told me it was okay for girls to play football whether that may have changed my mindset.

Even today, I feel left out as my three brothers watch football together. I do not understand the game because I was not welcomed to be a part of it growing up. Although it is not an individual’s fault for my dislike, I do believe that outdated societal views have influenced school curriculums and made young girls believe that their gender defines what they can and cannot do. However, I am glad that today, football is becoming more common amongst girls. Everyone should be given the opportunity to feel included so that we can demonstrate to future generations that football, and other sports alike, is open to all.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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