Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Sweet FA

Still stuck in the depths of essay misery I have resorted to listening to radio one to make the day go faster. It made me smile to hear about Minnie Crutwell who has enlisted Tessa Jowell’s help in petitioning the Football Association about rules that ban mixed sex teams after the age of 12. I remember the same issue filling me and my friends with fury at first and middle school and in fact we had an enthusiastic trainee teacher who set up a girls’ football team which I loved playing in. Without him we would not have been able to continue playing.

The argument for this rule is one of physical strength – at 12 it is assumed girls are no longer strong enough to compete alongside boys. I was interested to read that England has the most restrictive gender division in the sport in Europe. It goes without saying that although women’s football is a growing sport it does not receive anywhere near the same recognition as the male side of the sport. It may be argued that dividing teams along gender lines at an early age prevents women’s football being viewed as inferior if women at a later age join a single sex team. However my experience of the sport was that, although theoretically I could play in a women only team, the number of these teams is limited. A passionate teacher helped us out at middle school but there was no such opportunity once I reached high school. The rule does seem unduly restrictive with an unconvincing justification, but I see little prospect of it being changed, if for no other reason than it hasn’t changed since I was playing football 11 years ago.
When speaking to my cousins (aged 7 and 9) recently I discovered that even at primary school they are not allowed the opportunity to play football in P.E. The boys play games and the girls do physical education. The situation was the same when I was at school, although on request (and I did request) girls could play with the boys. If you did not ask though you were consigned to mindless exercises involving from what I can remember bean bags and hula hoops. I am amazed that these gender divisions in sport persist even at such a young age, but also pleased that girls continue to fight against the odds to attain equality in a system which tries its hardest to divide.


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