The year is 2002. After I had been using excuses to get out of going to the girl’s scouts for months to go and watch my little brother’s soccer matches, my parents give in. They let me join a soccer team. The Great Adventure starts in the U9s of my local club SBC. During my first practice, the boys that are now my teammates eye me suspiciously and afterwards I shower all by myself in the referee’s dressing room.
At birthday parties, my parents usually have some explaning to do. ‘A girl? Playing soccer? And you guys are okay with this?’ a shocked aunt asks. Opponents and their (adult) trainers have a habit of loudly announcing before games that it’ll be an easy one today, because the oppossing team has ‘one of those girls’ on their squad. But oh well. My name is Emma, I’m 9 years old and you guys won’t get to me. I’m a soccer player.
The year is 2016. I open the Voetbal International, Holland’s single biggest soccer magazine, and see a 20-page summer special about women’s soccer. An extensive interview with Dutch player Lieke Martens, a long item on Liona, the first brand with soccer wear especially made for women, and even a quiz about the Dutch women’s national team.
Earlier this week it was announced that the TV-station NOS will broadcast all the games of the coming European Championship live, you can select women’s teams in the extremely popular game FIFA and the American soccer star Alex Morgan has 2.4 million followers on Twitter.
A true revolution
When you, like me, are born in the 90s, you won’t have lived through many ‘revolutions’. While your grandparents can tell you about life when there weren’t any cars on the streets, and dad tries to fill an awkward silence at the dinner table by telling the story of the emergence of colour television for the umpteenth time, you will in a few decades’ time be telling your grandkids: ‘When grandma was young, Facebook didn’t even exist yet!’. Pathetic, when you think about it.
But the evolution of women’s soccer the last fifteen years can truly be called a revolution. When on the day after Holland played Sweden in the Olympic Qualifying tournament a couple months ago, five different colleagues came to be to talk about the game, I knew the tide had turned. Women’s soccer has not only become socially accepted, it’s booming. A development that I’ve had the privilege of experiencing from the first front line.
In a little under a year, during the summer of 2017, the women’s European Championship will be held in the Netherlands. And I’m hoping with all my heart that we will be witnessing filled stadiums, an explosion of orange on the streets and the endless analysing of games at the coffee table. So that I can later tell my grandchildren: ‘When grandma was young, women’s soccer was way less well known then the men’s game, but that must be very hard for you to imagine right now!’
Thanks for reading, talk soon! 🙂