Why Less Really is More in the Women’s Game

By , Posted on 17th January 2014 - Posted in: Football News, News

I read a statistic recently that claimed the average amount of time the ball is in active play during a Premier League game shakes out at just over an hour. Sixty-two minutes or so out of ninety. That can be a bit of a shock when you take a look at ticket prices but depending on what you choose to believe the reality may be even worse. I saw one claim that said the average PL game had only forty minutes of ‘real’ football going on, and this was actually up ten minutes on a decade previously. Blimey.

I guess we have to take it as read that games are often interrupted by injuries, disputes and long hoofs of the ball into row Z, but even so aren’t those stats a bit bleak? However, I’ve a tendency to believe them and I certainly don’t have the desire to put a stopwatch on the next game I sit in front of, I mean, why would you?

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An insight into just how much time is lost during a game hit me starkly a few weeks back when I watched my first ever top-flight womens’ match. It was a La Liga fixture in Spain between Granada Femenino and Español.

The game was marked by a total lack of silly macho posturing, diving and the feigning of injuries. There was no back chat to the referee or officials and every decision was accepted and got on with. I hadn’t realised how much of a drag all of that is in the men’s game until I watched a game without it. The women seemed to concentrate on, dare I say it, playing football. And I’ve toddled along to a few more games since and each time have been genuinely entertained. Perhaps if the men followed suit we’d get more value for our money?

Ah yes, but the women’s game lacks drama I hear you say. Well, there’s a lack of power and speed, sure, of sheer bone crunching physicality but those things in themselves are not sufficient to create genuine thrills. Think of all the turgid, bore-draw, high ball, slogfests you’ve watched and you’ll understand the truth of this. What I’ve seen are games played in an aesthetically pleasing way, the ball being rolled across the grass and being addressed with drag-backs, flicks, nutmegs and all manner of skillful manipulation. And ninety minutes of that kind of football, with the ball largely in play (certainly for a lot longer than an hour) is heaps more satisfying than a game constantly interrupted by the ball being thumped into orbit or by referees needing to ‘have a word’ with players who constantly require treatment for mysterious ‘knocks’.

Goalkeepers in the women’s game are often lampooned, mainly for a lack of being able to deal with the high stuff. Well of course women are generally of shorter stature than men yet have to play the game in the same sized goals so clearly there’s an issue there. Indeed, in that first game I saw, Granada’s left back scored against Español with a misshit cross that sailed over the head of a static ‘keeper who had clearly decided there wasn’t any point in even stretching out a token arm. That wasn’t very satisfying, even if your loyalties were with the ‘rojiblancas’, but it matters not in the bigger picture.

Clearly there’s much to be admired about the macho blood and thunder of the men’s game but a lot can be learnt from its female counterpart. And if you haven’t been along to watch your local ladies team yet may I suggest you do so at the earliest opportunity. You may or may not be pleasantly surprised, but you’ll certainly see more football.

 

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