Tuesday, 9 April 2013

125 of one and 125 of the other.

Rachel Yankey won her 125th cap for England on Sunday. Her 125th international cap.
You would think that would be something to praise and celebrate, wouldn't you? But apparently not.
Apparently the fact that she is only a woman, means that it isn't relevant or important or any sort of achievement in the slightest.

I would laugh, if it wasn't so damn disrespectful, patronising and sexist.  But was I surprised? Hell no, because I'm beginning to expect nothing less.  As disappointing as that is for me to admit.

Last September when Yankey became England's most capped outfield player, I did an exclusive interview with her.  She was a pleasure to speak too, as always.  As I'm freelance, I contacted several publications - as I always do - to see if they would be interested in featuring a wonderful player talking about her special moment. Those that got back to me, did not.  I often hear that readers don't want to read about women's football, but how do we know if they are not given the option. Readers don't look for women's football, because they don't expect it to be there, it's a vicious circle that needs to be broken.  The only publication that were happy to print the article were The Voice, who then featured it on their back page as the lead sports story.

Admittedly, it may have been me and not the article that they didn't want.  But I'm not being arrogant when I say that I think it was the subject matte,r they weren't interested in.  Despite all the right things that were muttered after our women's national team put on such a successful showing at London 2012, we can all see nothing much has really changed.

So, on Monday I went through the papers and their websites as I always do.  And I was surprised, some had actually taken notice of what must be the proudest moment in the midfielder's life.  I was happy, no scratch that, ecstatic to see that Yankey and women's football in general were getting some much needed and deserved recognition.  And about time too!  Until I looked at the comments below the line.  A fellow, more experienced sports journalist once told me: 'Never look below the line'.  After all this time, you would think I would've learnt.  Because he's normally bloody right!

The majority of that negative consensus was that the Arsenal star's achievement had no right being compared to Peter Shilton's because women's football isn't at the same level as its male counterpart.  And later that night on Twitter, there were similar statements as well as the woefully sexist: 'So what?'

Just to clear something up, no one is comparing women's football to the men's game.  No one is comparing Yankey to David Beckham.  We wouldn't compare Beth Tweddle to Louis Smith, nor Christine Ohuruogu to Michael Johnson, would we?  So why can we not have the same respect in football that we show to the competitors in athletics.

Yankey's achievement should be celebrated for the amazing individual benchmark that it is and we should be proud to say she is English and has been so committed to her national team over such a lengthy period of time.  Particularly given the fact that when she first started her journey, she played alongside the boys because there were no women's team for her to compete in.  Funny how she was good enough for the boys then...

The joke is; those that say her record number of caps is irrelevant because she supposedly plays at a lower standard, would still celebrate or congratulate a San Marino player who reaches the same number.  Even though their FIFA ranking makes theirs the lowest standard of all.

I don't care who you are, to appear so many times for your country at the highest level available to you, is amazing. 

So the next time those people are making their sarcastic comments, maybe they should sit and think. 

About what they have achieved in their life, about the disrespect they show to someone who has spent their whole life trying to achieve their dream.

And about England's equal most capped football player.  Who just happens to be a Woman...