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July 10, 2013

From footnote to headline

On the opening day of Euro2013 in Sweden, a guest contribution by Kamila Grześkowiak, master student in anthropology at Adam Mickiewicz (Poznań), who is currently completing her master thesis on gender perception in women’s football.
Kamila can be contacted under

All over June, Polish sports media seemed to be doing business as usual. Which means they were almost exclusively writing about Robert Lewandowski. First about his hypothetical transfer to Bayern (or why not Real or Barcelona). As they had no idea about what was happening, they were mainly quoting German newspapers.

Then they moved to Lewandowski’s wedding. His beautiful wife. His suit by a famous designer. His guests. ‘Lewandowski’s wedding without Piszczek and Blaszczykowski!’, one internet headline screamed. Having no information in what club he was going to sign with, they titled ‘Lewandowski signed the contract of his life’.

There's more to European women's football than Germany and Scandinavia: the Polish U-17 girls are celebrating their first European trophy.

‘Fighting without strong support is very hard’, one of my friends, a female football player, once said. But despite the lack of support, our girls won the final against Sweden. Let’s be clear about it: coach Zbigniew Witkowski created a team that coach Waldemar Fornalik, head of the men’s national team, can only dream about: playing for passion, not for money. It made me think how awesome our female football teams could be if only the Polish Football Association, the sponsors and the fans treated them seriously. Will this recent success change anything? Well, at least, it brought the girls into the newspaper headlines. Now everyone in Poland knows that excellent European women’s football is not only played in Germany and Scandinavia.

No need to interpret too much into this event. But it’s a more than welcome signal in a society that is still dominated by patriarchal thinking. The media echo to the girls’ triumph confirms the findings of my field research: female football slowly begins to be reconsidered, it starts to be no longer regarded as a kind of ‘oxymoron’, but more as an interesting alternative.

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