'The world of Twitter is a wonderful thing within the women’s game', writes Kieran Theivam. But he goes on to highlight how it can bring out the best & worst in sports fans...
The world of Twitter is a wonderful thing within the women’s game, largely due to the fact it’s given fans and media an insight into the lives of players that few other sports would be able to boast.
Social media for the Women’s World Cup has seen players from all over the world give behind the scenes snapshots from training sessions and hotels, while also giving fans the opportunity to engage through Q&As, and generally giving a flavour of what it’s like to be a player at a World Cup.
But what we also saw this week was the contrasting attitudes to players, especially on Twitter, when things don’t always go according to plan and luck has given you a slap in the face.
I’m talking about the reaction to game changing ‘bad luck’ that saw both Canada and England eliminated from the World Cup in the latter stages, meaning their dream of a final in Vancouver would remain just that, a dream.
When Lauren Sesselmann slipped early on in the quarter-final match against England, it allowed Jodie Taylor to give her side an early lead. Log onto Twitter, and the tirade of abuse being aimed at the Houston Dash defender, in some cases, is almost unrepeatable.
A player who suffered a horrid ACL injury last year and was a major doubt for this tournament, fought her way back against the odds to make John Herdman’s squad and give herself a shot of playing in front of her home crowd at a World Cup.
Once selected for the squad, what happens after that, is up to the coach.
If you want to criticise Lauren’s performances during the World Cup, you’re entitled to do that, she’ll know she didn’t have her best tournament. But she doesn’t pick the team, and would you turn down the opportunity to play in a home World Cup if your coach picks you? Might I remind those who sent abuse and threats that she has started just a handful of games since returning from injury.
Fast forward to the end of the match, and what you’re greeted with is comments such as “Please leave Canada, I will pay your costs,” and “Wishing I could punch Sesselmann in her stupid face.” Trust me, there was much, much worse that I cannot put in print.
The abuse forced the Canada defender to release a statement saying how “heartbroken” she was, while hitting back at the criticism she received. I must stress that she received significant support from some, but the damage had already been done, with one media outlet even suggesting she receives preferential treatment because of her looks. Sorry, but I can’t stand for that!
Fast forward to Wednesday night, the 92nd minute of England’s semi-final encounter with Japan that’s heading into extra-time, with a place in the World Cup final at stake. Laura Bassett scores the most unfortunate own-goal after a colossal effort in the back line throughout the tournament, and England go out.
The goal prevented England from progressing to the final, which would have been their first, but what followed was a reaction that showed class, empathy and the knowledge that solidarity and support is much more beneficial than criticism and abuse.
Posts from the likes of Mia Hamm and Landon Donovan from the world of football tweeted their support, while celebrities in England, such as comedian John Bishop, also conveyed their sympathy.
But it was the England fans, who could quite easily have reacted in the same way as some of their Canadian counterparts, who really shone through, tweeting wholehearted support for Bassett.
They recognised that a freakish bit of bad luck had cost England their place in the final, with no time to claw their way back into the game. Her tears were shared by many, and rather than sticking the boot in, fans rallied, communicated their support, and showed no ill felling to Bassett or any member of Mark Sampson’s team.
For that, England fans deserve an immense amount of credit, and while I am in no way suggesting all Canada fans were responsible for the abuse of Sesselmann, those that were should take a good look at themselves, and take a look at the England reaction.
This is a brilliant, wonderful sport that continues to grow and develop because of the players that work tirelessly and make sacrifices to be the best they can be for themselves, their team, and the fans they hope to inspire.
As it grows, it will come under more scrutiny, and that’s fine, the game shouldn’t be void of criticism just because it’s the women and not the men. As long as that criticism is constructive, and not abusive, then players will accept that and move on – you won’t be telling them anything they don’t already know!
As for Bassett and Sesselmann, they’ll bounce back and show their class. Both had contrasting tournaments and reactions to their misfortune, but their experience, unquestionable strength and the support of their teammates, will allow them to move on.
It may just take a bit of time.
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Neither are workable or likely at present but hypothetically, would you prefer a more strict salary cap in the FA WSL OR should centrally contracted England players (that receive salaries from The FA) be allocated more evenly around WSL1 clubs?