For this year’s Olympic host nation, football is a national sport; it’s a culture and understandably gets a lot of public and media attention. That is, however, only the case with the men’s game, but that is an unfortunate inconsistency that may, thankfully, be about to change.
Exemplified by the women’s semifinal at Old Trafford, a seven-goal thriller between the USA and Canada, London 2012 is helping women’s football gain the credit and coverage it deserves.
The semifinal at Old Trafford epitomised just how good the women’s game can be. With Canada leading the world No. 1 side and three-time Olympic champions, the USA, 1-0 at halftime, it was a second half to savour.
Four goals in 30 minutes, controversial refereeing decisions and an electric crowd—it was everything that makes an exciting game of football. It was true edge-of-your-seat stuff that had the heart pounding until the death.
In the 123rd minute, literally the final seconds of extra time, Alex Morgan headed in a dramatic, unbelievable winner. With it, the USA was once more into the Olympic final, a fixture they have never failed to feature in.
Of all the Olympic finals, London 2012 may be the greatest one to play in yet. Never has women’s football gained so much coverage. It seems that every year, more and more people discover the quality of the women’s game, which comes with increasing amounts of media attention.
The final will be a rematch of last year’s Women’s World Cup final—whichever side claims gold, it is clear that women’s football as a whole will gain the most as a result of London 2012.
Speaking after the game, USA striker Lauren Cheney, who is competing in her second Olympic Games, but her first as a mainstay in the starting lineup, was quick to praise her side’s determination. “We have a never say die mentality, we believe in each other so much and we keep fighting until the end.” Reflecting on the game, it was the ‘never say die mentality’ that made the game so exciting.
Going a goal down a total of three times can have a detrimental impact on any team. But not for the USA. Indeed, both teams performed with immense determination.
In front of a passionate crowd in an iconic Old Trafford stadium, the USA and Canada proved that the quality of the women’s game, the drama and entertainment value it can offer, easily matches that of the men’s game.
So what does the future hold for women’s football? If public interest stays at such a high level then can we expect to see domestic matches be televised more? Will bigger sponsors help bring more money and publicity to the sport, or will public interest wane and wither as the London 2012 Olympic Games become a thing of the past?
These Games were built on a promise of legacy, and this is a true test of how influential that legacy may be for the women’s game.
This piece was written by Phil of The Reporters' Academy, a media production company run by young people. The Reporters' Academy is integrated into the world of media, education and employment, based in two great sporting cities, Manchester and Melbourne, and is officially Inspired by London 2012.
All quotes were obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted.