So you’ve done it. You’ve clicked a link that says “Ladies” in it, on a blog that is dominated by males and the discussion of a male squad, and presumably, you aren’t enough of a dunce to believe it might be one of those awful WAGs articles. What happens now?
Perhaps you ought to indulge the impulse that brought you here. Peruse on, dear reader.
As a boy growing up in Chicagoland, I was fortunate to enjoy the golden era of the NBA alongside my hometown team’s supremacy in the sport. For those of you for whom this doesn’t ring a bell, I know the name Michael Jordan will. As I got older, I began to feel let down by the other athletes and teams in the area. Over time, the sporting world in general lost its lustre for me. The NBA seems a shell of its former self, and fans all over the U.S. lament the flopping, the obvious egos, and the perceived disappearance of loyalty. Strikes and scandals mar most sports today, from the steroid use of the late nineties to the domestic abuse-enabling, concussion-cover-upping, NFC-champion-Colin-Kaepernick-shunning circus that is the NFL. And don’t even get me started on FIFA.
This isn’t a tirade about where other sports are now; it’s a recognition that all good things can reach a point where the money and celebrity involved turns a game about teamwork and testing one’s physical limits into something monstrous and corrupt. People love college sports because they can watch talented athletes play more for the love of the game and the desire to win than for the promise of a payday. Of course, many college sports have had their share of issues as well. The truth is, I’m not here to make a moral argument for women’s football; the sport is exciting enough in its own right, and frankly, the issues of pay discrepancy and the lack of respect these female athletes get shown can be just as frustrating. Simply put, if you find yourself longing for talented players performing at their peak in an arena where the ungodly sums of money involved doesn’t dominate the discussion, you’d be hard-pressed to come upon a better option than women’s football.
It’s true that there are very few things more glamorous and dramatic than a Champions League match at Stamford Bridge. The bright lights, the music, the massive crowds, and the exceptional talent on show all make for a fantastic spectacle. You’ll hear no disagreement from me on that. The women’s game lacks the razzle dazzle and rah-rah when compared to the men’s game to be sure. Moreover, as women aren’t generally raised to favor sports from the moment they start breathing, they do tend to be technically behind the curve. But that is quickly changing. The only obstacles to the next generation of women’s footballers being every bit as skilled* as the men’s are the resources, including the amount of time organized for devotion to the sport. Those obstacles are getting smaller by the year, and as the route to becoming a pro becomes more accessible for women and the financial backing of clubs and leagues continues to grow, the athletes will advance alongside them.
* Science dictates that human males have some genetic advantages in terms of strength, endurance, and some other characteristics, but I have seen little that convinces me that women cannot develop the same technical ability with equal support. Marta (highlights) and Tobin Heath (highlights) strike me as examples how exciting present and future footballers can be in the women’s game.
In short, now is a great time to get in on what is still something of ground floor for the sport. This is especially true for Chelsea Ladies, who were only established in 1992, when the club addressed the desires voiced by supporters. Moreover, the Ladies side has struggled to gain traction since then, and it’s only been the arrival of Emma Hayes as manager in the summer of 2012 that’s initiated a yield akin to the men’s pre-eminence under the ownership of Roman Abramovich. The club are investing more and more into Chelsea Ladies, and with recent international acquisitions, including USWNT star Crystal Dunn, the future looks very bright indeed.
But you shouldn’t take my word for it. Tune in. Matches are frequently streamed live on ChelseaTV — if you haven’t gotten ChelseaTV by this point, I must recommend it; at the risk of sounding like a commercial for the service, it does take one’s fandom to the next level — weekends and the occasional midweek competition.
At the very least, come back and check out the preseason primer designed for new viewers that we will have available prior to the Ladies’ season opener on September 24th at 12:30 BST. In it, you’ll find a brief history of Chelsea LFC, a breakdown of the squad, and an in-depth piece on manager mastermind Emma Hayes.
We have so much more to talk about. We’re only getting started. Please leave your comments and questions below.