2006: The Year of Football

Posted in Football at 10:14 am by Nicole

It’s the year of the Cup – the World Cup, that is – and Chinese fans are crazy about the sport. “World Cup” in Chinese is 世界杯 – “shi-jie-bei” – and there’s plenty of television programming in China dedicated to the beautiful game. Beautiful, that is, if you understand why so much of the world is so crazy about it. As an American born and bred with baseball – Mom’s a Yankees fan while Dad was from Boston, where only the Red Sox matter – I’m still finding it hard to wrap my head around the incredible popularity that European football enjoys in so many parts of the world. But I’ll get there…give me another few months.

Today the International Herald Tribune reports on the intersection of sport and politics, using the backdrop of the World Cup and Iran’s president commanding the Ministry of Sport to allow women to attend games. It’s a sobering testament to the fact that so much of the world seems to have such a long way to go towards equal rights. In fact, sport can go a very long way to showcase the abilities of both women and men – achievements that help to argue for strong laws in all countries giving women and men the same rights and protections in all areas of life.

I strongly believe that the more women are allowed to play sports at a high level, the more their position in society will improve. At the 2003 World Track and Field Championships in Paris, we watched as Afghanistan fielded its first-ever female competitor at that event in the 100-meter dash She couldn’t run anywhere near as fast as the women who won the medals, but it didn’t matter. It was about symbolism and hope – under Taliban rule, women couldn’t even leave their homes without male supervision, let alone train for elite athletics.

I digress, but it’s an important point. Sports marketers who really believe they can move cultures forward should be thinking about getting as many women into the game as possible – whatever game it might be, in whatever country they’re in. In China I see tons of boys playing pick-up basketball after class – and almost no girls. I’d love to see that trend change in the next generation.

In other football news today, Chelsea and the Asian Football Confederation signed a partnership whereby Chelsea will become the first European club to help develop football in Asia. The agreement was made in Qingdao, China during the AFC’s meeting with the Chinese Football Association.

1 Comment »

  1. bill said,

    April 28, 2006 at 2:49 am

    It’s interesting, many young Americans play soccer but few watch the sport and as they get older they lose all interest for the game.

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