I’m really not a fan of football, but I’m also not a fan of gender inequality – on the pitch or otherwise. And though women have been playing football under the FA since 1971, this year marks the very first time a female team has been featured in the annual FIFA video game series. About time, if you ask me.
It’d be ridiculous of me to suggest that women’s football is as popular as men’s football – you don’t have to be a fan to realise that it isn’t – but not featuring women in FIFA endorsed video games after almost 22 years of the series does beg the question: what took so long? The female teams are still playing the sport to a world class standard, and surely deserve to be recognised for their efforts for their country. Tennis video games such as Top Spin and Virtua Tennis have featured female sports stars for years, but the leading football franchise has been doing our dames a disservice by excluding them until now.
Finally including women in FIFA can only have a positive effect on the perceptions and views of women’s football, especially for the largely male demographic that religiously buy each iteration of the sporting series. 11 women’s sides will be available in the upcoming FIFA 16, and will include playable characters like Steph Houghton: the captain of the England squad. If nothing else, having the women available on the roster will improve many fans’ knowledge of the female teams and players, and may even encourage more female gamers to give the FIFA series a kick-about for the very first time.
One can also hope that having women in FIFA video games will eventually begin to help strengthen the case for levelling out the disparity in prize money that women still face within the sport. Many believe the income of a professional footballer is excessive to say the least, but knowing that the FA Cup prize money for males is 360 times greater than the prize money received by females – a meagre £5,000 – should be enough for anyone to blow the whistle and call for a foul. Though having women in FIFA 16 certainly won’t bridge that gap on its own, perhaps it will help to further raise awareness of the injustices that still go on in a society that claims to promote ‘gender equality’.
I for one am glad to see women finally stepping onto the virtual pitch – but let’s wait and see how the footballing community react to the news. For now, it’s full-time and the final score: 1-0 to the girls. FIFA 16 is due for release on 15 September.