Did a Brazilian soccer official really just say the popularity of the women’s game was due to beauty? Yep.
The talented teams participating in the FIFA Women’s World Cup are captivating audiences across the globe (the Westfield Matildas have just reached the next stage, FYI), however, sadly we’re talking about the comp for a different reason today.
The women’s coordinator for the Confederation of Brazil, Marco Aurelio Cunha, has ever so helpfully offered his opinion on the reason for the increased attention on women’s soccer.
No, he didn’t think it was because of the genuine talent of the players, or even that the world is waking up to the realisation that yes, women play sport, and they play it damn well.
For more on the Women’s World Cup: It’s the biggest event in the world right now – and you haven’t heard about it.
According to Cunha, it’s all down to the Brazilian players’ beauty routines. Yes, really.
He went on to say that the reason people refrained from watching women’s soccer in the past was because the players looked too masculine.
“Now the women are getting more beautiful, putting on make-up. They go onto the field in an elegant manner,” he told The Globe and Mail.
“We used to dress the girls as boys. So the team lacked a spirit of elegance, femininity. Now the shorts are a bit shorter, the hairstyles are more done up. It’s not a woman dressed as a man.” (Post continues after gallery.)
Excuse us while we pick our jaws back up off the floor.
As The Cut points out, this is far from the first time soccer officials have regarded sexier uniforms as a genuine way to entice more viewers. In 2004, former FIFA president Sepp Blatter recommended that female players “could, for example, have tighter shorts.”
Ugh. Unsurprisingly, fans, players and representative bodies have had enough.
For more on women being represented as ‘sexy’ in sport: This ad is every bit as painful as running without a bra.
“It’s really old school thinking,” says Leanne Evans, executive officer of Australian Womensport and Recreation Association (AWRA), a not-for-profit organisation advocating for women in sport.
“In defense of the uniforms, when it comes to Australia it was actually only recently that the Matildas even got their own uniform – before that, they literally were wearing the men’s. It would still be like that for a few countries I imagine. It’s a sign of how far the team has come in resources,” she says.
According to Evans, Cunha’s “inane” comment totally misses the point.
“The athletes just want focus to be on performance. So the sooner we can get way from commentary based on looks, the better.”
Whether the players do choose to wear makeup or do their hair is entirely a personal choice.
“It’s just like the general population – some people like to, others don’t. There’s certainly no expectation that they should,” she says.
Fortunately, Evans believes these kind of attitudes are less prominent in Australia.
More on sexism in sport: ‘Don’t just be good – look good,’ sportswomen are told.