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From jaw-dropping goals to heart-stopping saves, the Women’s World Cup has provided fans with countless unforgettable moments. In this year’s edition, the Women’s World Cup has utterly captivated us, resembling a cinematic blockbuster. The scandal, the heart ache, the triumph, and the joy. Over the past few weeks, we have been treated to the absolute best of the women’s game.

In 2023, both Barbie and the Women’s World Cup made record-breaking headlines. The comedy film featuring the iconic doll generated an estimated $525 million domestically and $1.2 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing movie directed by a woman. In fact, it’s projected to be the highest-grossing movie of the entire year.

But Barbie wasn’t the only female captivating audiences this summer; the Women’s World Cup was just as thrilling. With over 1.5 million tickets sold for the 63 matches, fans have filled stadiums, fan parks, school halls, and their own homes to watch the action. Audiences have been hooked and left in pure awe by the display of talent.

This year marked the final World Cup appearance for Marta Vieira da Silva, widely recognized as the greatest female footballer of all time. With six Player of the Year awards and a remarkable record of 171 matches played for Brazil, Marta’s 115 goals scored surpass all of her male and female counterparts for her country. In an emotional post-match press conference, Marta said:

“Do you know what’s cool? When I started playing I didn’t have an idol, a female idol. You guys didn’t show any female games. How was I supposed to see other players? How was I supposed to understand that I could arrive at a national team and become an idol? Today, when we go out on the street, people stop. The parents stop and say ‘Oh my daughter loves you, she wants to be just like you’. It’s not just Marta, it’s other athletes as well. We have our own idols.”

Out of the 32 countries, 8 are making their world cup debut, and both teams in the final have never taken the title of World Cup Champions. Symbolizing the dawn of a new era for women’s football. The reigning champions, the USA, were eliminated from the 2023 Women’s World Cup following a penalty shootout defeat to Sweden in the round of 16. USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher came agonizingly close to saving Lina Hurtig’s penalty – and VAR revealed just how tight it was.

The battleground extended beyond the pitch. Most players from Zambia’s squad endured a disheartening absence of payment for two years, compounded by an ongoing investigation of sexual assault allegations against their head coach.  Players have had to fight for their salaries, for the fans to have the option to buy their kit, and even for basic dignity during interviews.

Since April, Mary Earps has relentlessly championed her cause behind closed doors, while Nike’s refusal to manufacture or distribute her goalkeeper shirt serves as a poignant erasure, not solely of Earps, but also of her supporters and the future generation of goalkeepers.

Zecira Muscovic was asked “Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes from Bosnia. Do you know Zlatan?” Zecira had just performed at the highest standard of football and knocked out a giant contender. The reporters were only granted three questions and one was about someone irrelevant.

Ghizlane Chebbak, in turn, faced an unsettling query, ‘In Morocco, engaging in a gay relationship is unlawful. Do any homosexual players feature in your squad?’. Let alone the journalist’s clear dismissal of the subject at hand – the World Cup – the question, posed by a BBC reporter, fell short of responsible journalism. Morocco subjects’ homosexuality to up to three years of imprisonment. The inappropriateness of this line of questioning was exacerbated by its potential dangers. Remarkably, this year’s World Cup featured a record-breaking 96 openly LGBTQ+ athletes.

Despite the significant strides made in gender equality; discrepancies and challenges remain. Indeed, the ongoing tendency to subject women to comparisons with their male counterparts when assessing their achievements remains a persistent issue in the realm of sports and beyond.

This recurring phenomenon is strikingly exemplified by the contrasting narratives surrounding two remarkable athletes. Sam Kerr has scored 63 goals for her country. Tim Cahill scored 50, which is indeed less but critics say that Kerrs goals are not equal to Cahill. This is the point I will include a fun-fact:  Chloe Kelly’s penalty at 110.79km/h was shot faster than every Men’s Premier League goal in 2022/2023. The persistence of this problem underscores the urgent need for sustained action in support of gender parity and equitable recognition of women’s achievements.

The final will take place 20th August between Spain and England. As the countdown to the final ticks away, anticipation mounts, and the stage is set for an unforgettable clash between Spain and England. So, if you have never had the chance to watch a women’s football game, seize this opportunity to immerse yourself in a world of talent, excitement, and shared joy. Trust me, it is going to be a good one!

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