LAST Friday evening’s women’s football encounter between Saint Lucia and Cuba was a refreshing sight for many football fans. Women’s football, by no means on par with men’s football here, is a rarity in Saint Lucia at that level.
We understand that developing women’s football in a developing country like Saint Lucia requires a comprehensive and strategic approach that encompasses multiple aspects, and for its work to date in that regard we applaud the Saint Lucia Football Association. We recognise the need for the media to get involved to promote women’s football, not just to be on par with the men’s game, but to eradicate gender stereotypes.
Of the several things that hinder women’s football in Saint Lucia, social norms and prejudices are high on the agenda. Some of us are not aware that there was a time in Saint Lucia when football was seen purely as a male sport, not something women or girls should engage in and if they did, those girls would be referred to as tomboys, meaning girls who enjoy rough, noisy activities, usually associated with boys.
There are Saint Lucians today who still hold that belief.
While these old norms of behaviour are slowly being replaced and, more and more, women’s football are being seen as normal and acceptable in the world today, there are still moms and dads who dread the thought of their little girls in a sport society once accepted, or may still accept as only a boy thing.
And that is where the media can be utilised, not to glamourise the sport of women’s football but to help change those formal or informal, written or unwritten social norms and prejudices that in many ways stymied the growth of our girls.
Before we be misunderstood, be reminded that we are not suggesting the elimination of social norms. On the contrary, we recognise the importance of norms as they often are the means of maintaining social order; they are rules that define acceptable and appropriate actions within a given group or community. They guide what we do, what we expect others to do, and what we believe others approve of and expect us to do.
With added media coverage, awareness of women’s football would rise, so too would be the challenges to the social norms and prejudices that are perceived to be harmful to women’s football.
By the use of media, the visibility of women’s football in Saint Lucia will increase, and we all know what that could do for sponsor and fan engagement. Both would be drawn to the game hereby increasing sponsorship dollars and gate receipts.
However, the media is not the only entity that is needed now to develop women’s football in Saint Lucia in conjunction with the Saint Lucia Football Association. Government should create initiatives that would further facilitate the growth of women’s football in the country.
The question, what are the strategies that can be implemented by government to encourage our young girls to participate in football and break gender stereotypes the game is associated with is, therefore, timely.
Last Friday night’s loss to Cuba is not something our girls should dwell upon as they have the basics and skills that would help them mature and overcome teams like Cuba moving forward. This much was evident in their crushing 5 – 1 victory against Guadeloupe last Tuesday in Guadeloupe. While that win will boost their confidence in the return leg of the matches they have just played, what is needed now is for them to develop stamina, speed and bodily strength to match the tougher and fitter girls they will encounter in their match to be a force in CONCACAF.