Updated: Oct 11, 2019
Today feels monumental to me and that might seem like a really dramatic statement but I really am ecstatic... over the years my family, friends and online trolls have laughed at me for my impassioned speeches about representation of female fans in the FIFA games. In 2016 FIFA16 introduced the first female players in an international teams format. I distinctly remember being asked "well... are you happy now?" by a gamer as I saw images of a perfectly sculpted Ronaldo cartoon floating around the screen. The women didn't even look like humans. They even got Jill Scott's hair the wrong colour... "No, I'm still not happy I'm afraid"... "God, why can't you feminazi's just be happy with what you get!"
I see FIFA as my escape from reality. I'm a grown woman and I regularly get so engulfed in FIFA that I throw my belongings across the room. It's because it's just so believable. For those 10 minutes you're managing a team at the Nou Camp, 15 minutes to go in the Champions League final, the camera darts to your star player Messi who flicks the ball across to Suarez who smashes it in. The camera flies over to the manager... a bald headed ageing white man in a suit who claps his hands together in joy. Moment gone. Escape from reality gone. That avatar doesn't represent me. It doesn't represent a future me either (unless I undergo some pretty serious surgery) and its rubbish that I can't escape like every little boy or grown man who plays this game.
What's pretty hilarious (and a bit sad) is that I've been writing to FIFA every year since 2012 to request female representation in career mode. Call me a geek, call me a feminazi but I believe this huge move by FIFA today means so much more than just a computer game welcoming women. For most kids in 2019 they live out their dreams through a virtual world. They'll play football out in the garden and then come inside once it gets dark and switch on their console. For most little girls until women started appearing on TV during the world cup in 2019 they didn't see themselves represented in football. For most little girls who pick up a controller in 2019 they don't see themselves being important enough or smart enough to understand the complexities of being a manager in a virtual game. What affect will FIFA20 have on future generations? I think the long term affects could be huge.
I'd like to share with you one of my many FIFA manager discussions over my 7 year frustration. It all started when one of my idols Rafael Benitez posted an Instagram of himself with a FIFA EA representative... this comment received 40+ responses, the majority were not happy that I was trying to ruin FIFA... so I said:
domp3arson has a fair point. There are no female managers in Europe's top 5 (men's) leagues. I wonder if he finds that crazy? The worlds most popular sport has exclusively male managers and almost exclusively white male managers. Is domp3arson arguing that it would be really bad to give women the role of a manager in the game because it might distract him whilst he's playing? In the back of his mind whilst he's missing an open goal does he think "I can't believe there are women out there who can play this game and look like their avatar. What. A. Joke." I also wonder what would happen if FIFA made the avatars representative of the top 5 leagues managers... how would Asian fans feel about not being represented? What about if they only represented the handful of black men in the top 5 leagues? Luckily, FIFA would never be callous enough to do that... they represent everyone... except women.
One of my favourite comments came from reevejohnson who said:
Reeve, you are a true example of our failing education system. A 30 second google session would've saved you from that embarrassment.
What's a real shame about harryyyyyyyyy04s response is that we see this sort of rhetoric all the time in women's football.
How many times have we heard "if they want equal pay then they need to bring in the revenue that men bring in"? Or "Once Women's football gets better then I might watch it". This idea that there has to be an order of events which successfully leads to an outcome is ridiculous. This process will take a lot of shuffling and generational changes before there's any semblance of true equality in football.
Realistically, if harry04 really thought long and hard about the route for a female to become a manager of a top 5 European men's club he would see that it's near-on impossible. Rumours are that Helena Costa (Manager of French Mens Team Clermont) only lasted 49 days in the role because she was kept in the dark by the management, had important emails ignored and games organised behind her back so... she quit. The clubs chairman said "She is a woman. They are capable of leading us to believe in certain things". I have no words. So, harry04 please can we agree that there isn't a chicken and an egg scenario in women's football equality?
I truly believe today is a huge turning point in the world of women's football. The next generation of little girls will see well paid female athletes playing in football stadiums, playing in their virtual FIFA world and being strong willed enough, resilient enough and knowledgeable enough to manage the very best clubs on the planet. The tide is turning and I'm fully on board.
I thought I would leave you with some of my many twitter rants to FIFA. I never got a response from them but maybe some of them made it through to the drawing board?
By Helen Hardy