FIFA tournament an opportunity to look beyond gender in sports

By David Chernushenko

David ChernushenkoThe 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup is coming to Canada and to Capital Ward this June. I am excited. I’ll be attending as many as the Ottawa games as possible (and maybe checking a few scores during the slow moments of meetings) because I love soccer. I love women’s soccer.

In my final year at Queen’s University, I even co-coached the women’s team, which went on to win the Ontario championship in 1984. That was as far as we could go. Back in the 1980s, there was no national tournament for women’s soccer, no national team and no World Cup for women — that would not come until 1991.

Our women, like all female soccer players at that time, were playing the beautiful game just for the love of it — for the fun, the endorphin rush, the physical fitness, the camaraderie and the break from studying.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Like women who played hockey or any other rough-and-tumble sport, these were not typical athletes. They were among the very small percentage of university-aged women still engaged in organized sports. They had to endure their share of cheap shots and comments about whether it was appropriate to get sweaty, muddy, bruised and even bloodied.

Fast forward to 2015: I am glad so much has changed, but I am saddened it has not changed enough. The percentage of females engaging in sports or any other form of regular physical activity still plummets when girls reach their teens. There are many reasons: body awareness, peer pressure, cultural norms, time pressures, etc. At the heart of it, strenuous team sports are still seen as more of a guy thing. That’s especially true of sports played with high intensity and frequency. It’s hard to believe, with such great Canadian role models as Christine Sinclair, Haley Wickenheiser, Clara Hughes, Eugenie Bouchard, the Dufour-Lapointe sisters and others. But it’s a fact.

So here is what I am hoping Canada/Ottawa/Capital Ward will get from hosting this summer’s marquee soccer event:

A chance to marvel at the speed, dexterity, power and focus of the players.

A chance for girls and older women to be inspired by what they see, and translate that into a summer of getting fit or staying fit.

A chance for all of us to wonder why we only pay good money to watch men’s professional sports and for corporate sponsors to ask themselves why they aren’t putting more money into women’s sports.

A chance for sports commentators and writers to get through the whole tournament without making gratuitous comments about any player’s or female coach’s looks, hair, body type or wardrobe. If you wouldn’t say it about Ronaldo, don’t say it about Marta.

And finally, a chance for us all to look beyond gender entirely and to be the great hosts and fans I know we can be.

Safer crossing at Clegg

Completion of the new, safer crossing at Clegg and Colonel By is expected by June. Many of us are looking forward to a new traffic light that can be activated by pedestrians and cyclists as needed, new sidewalks, and dedicated cycling links.

Councillor David Chernushenko
613-580-2487 | David.Chernushenko@Ottawa.ca | capitalward.ca

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