WOMEN’S FOOTBALL, A WORLD RECORD

Matches with enormous followings and incredible support. Viewing and earning records. Talented players with determination to sell.

Women’s football is no longer thought of as a minor sport and the World Cup in France 2019 is demonstrating how the national teams of the respective countries have nothing to be envious of their male colleagues. The FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 was a highly interesting event and not only from a media viewpoint. A record number of viewers, a huge sports festival and a way to speak about equal rights. And the perfect demonstration of the level achieved by the players, their skills and technical capacities which are certainly as good as their male counterparts. And not to mention the enormous business opportunity. To give an idea in financial terms of how much Fifa believed in the women’s world championship, the budget for the awards was 50 million dollars. More than three times the previous edition in Canada, when only 15 million were put aside. This is why Fifa considers the 2019 edition as a milestone, a turning point from which to go further. Moreover, from the TV viewing share side, the eighth edition of the World Cup proved how much women’s football is becoming a global phenomenon by extending its market of reference that now also includes men.

A triumph in terms of media coverage, sponsors and audience. One only has to look at the data in the digital and social sectors and on the more traditional television. Numbers that reached the unthinkable and are enormously encouraging for the athletes and for the growth of women’s football. The initial matches were watched by 443 million on the official FIFA Women’s World Cup channels, over 2 million followers, a 20% share on Twitter, 1.25 million followers on accounts linked to women’s football – in short, 25% more interaction than for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, 3000 hours seen on the WWC Daily Show and 6 million Likes on Facebook. The figures for traditional television channels are also impressive. Just by way of example, in group A, comprising France, South Korea, Norway and Nigeria, the first victory of the host country’s team against Korea was seen by 10.65 million viewers on TF1 and Canal+, with an overall share of 48%. More than twice compared to the last record of 4.12 million TV viewers for the quarter finals between the Blues and Germany during the Canadian World Cup in 2015. In Group C, the one with Italy, Australia, Brazil and Jamaica, the Italian team’s debut match against the Brazilians recorded 7,322,000 viewers and a share of 32.8%, while the match against Holland, despite our players being eliminated, recorded a record share: 6,109,000 TV viewers with a share of 44.35%. The best result ever in Italy in terms of viewings for a women’s football match. Not bad, considering that the Blues paid for being left behind compared to other European nations, Spain above all. In fact, after a golden moment in the 1990s, the fifteen years between 1999 and 2014 marked a slow-down.

Now, however, the movement has taken off again and the world championships have shown the conditions of our players. A compact and highly tough team, starting from its trainer. «The girls are now much better aware of their quality» said Coach Milena Bertolini. «This World Cup was a starting point, a base on which to work for the future. (…) And I would like to thank the Federation for providing us with everything we asked for to do well. I am proud because the girls have got their football known to all Italians and have enthralled them with it. This is the true success of the World Cup». Of course, the next step will be getting our athletes recognized as professionals, a category to which all the other female players in the national teams in this competition belong. And the players are in total agreement with this philosophy. Resolute and decisive. Combative. Athletes with the right mixture of individuality and collective strength. Like Barbara Bonansea: in the first World Cup match against Australia, she scored two goals and won the best player on the field. A trophy to add to the numerous others she has already won. Protagonists, like the captain of Istrian and Congolese origins, Sara Gama, a face of global Italy, ideal for representing an inclusive, open and contemporary sport. The same willingness shared by many foreign colleagues, such as, for example, Gaëlle Enganamouit, the rising star of Cameroon, a country where she is battling to create new possibilities for young girls who would like to embark on a sporting career.

Or Ode Fulutudilu from South Africa, whose story has the makings of a film: at three years old she was forced to escape from her homeland, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was ridden by civil war. As a refugee, she arrived in Angola and had to leave almost immediately due to the civil war that had just broken out there. She finally settled in Cape Town, South Africa, where a very young Ode began to play football and became the first female South African player to be a on a top Spanish team. And lastly, Megan Rapinoe, centre-forward and captain of the United States team, an LGBT activist, much-loved on and off the field, who has chosen a particular protest against American President Trump and his treatment of minorities by refusing to sing the national anthem. An announced promise. The player, who came out in 2012, did, in fact, make her intentions clear on Yahoo Sports before the tournament: «I will not sing the national anthem again. It is a kind of positive “finger” to the Trump administration and how it behaves towards those who think differently». She kept her word.