The women’s game has been largely celebrated at the World Cup this summer as the players, coaches and fans prove the sport is flourishing and continues to grow at a remarkable pace. Yes, the two versions of football (male and female) ARE different; but nobody dare argue that the women can’t deliver fast, skilful, and passionate play to make it hugely entertaining.
One aspect that we’ve not seen too much of, however, is the darker side of the game; but, alas, that all changed yesterday when the rather spiteful Cameroon team turned in a disgusting display in their 3-0 defeat to England. Snarling, spitting, cheating and petulant, the Cameroon side gave us an altogether corrosive and unpalatable version of the how football should be played. It was a stark reminder that — just like their male counterparts — when there is so much at stake at the very highest table of world sport, things can turn ugly. And, this was just about as ugly as it could get.
It was a fact not lost on a clearly upset England coach Phil Neville, who said he was “ashamed” by the antics after his team’s last-16 triumph as his Lionesses took their place in a quarter-final spot versus Norway. His comments came after the match was spoiled by the visitors’ incredible reaction to two video assistant referee (VAR) decisions as well as a good few over-the-top challenges on his players.
The ugly behaviour started just before half-time when the Cameroon players would not restart the match following Ellen White’s VAR-awarded second strike. It was initially ruled offside, but that decision was revoked and this led to protests and a delay of four minutes. The Africans were angered once more when Ajara Nchout’s goal — which would have made it 2-1 — was ruled out for offside after VAR was consulted. The decision left the attacker in tears but because of the general poor behaviour of the team there was little sympathy for her, it has to be said. Alex Greenwood made sure of England’s win by poking home after a corner.
And former Manchester United defender Neville said:
“That wasn’t a World Cup last-16 tie in terms of behaviour that I want to see from footballers. I am completely and utterly ashamed of the opposition. If that was my team – and it will never be any of my players – they would never play for England again. At times, we probably didn’t know whether the game would continue. It didn’t feel like football.
“This is going out worldwide. I didn’t enjoy it; the players didn’t enjoy it. My players kept their concentration fantastically, but those images are going out worldwide about how to act, the young girls playing all over the world that are seeing that behaviour. For me, it’s not right. My daughter wants to be a footballer and if she watches that she will think: ‘No, I want to play netball.”