Last Saturday I was forced, for reasons irrelevant to the story, to watch the Women’s World Cup quarter finals at a coffee shop instead of in the comfort of my home. It ended up being a silver lining of a situation as it made me realise how far we’ve come.
For the same reason that I was at the coffee shop, I was also late for the first game: Australia-France (I was supporting the Matilda’s fyi). The first thing that I saw when I stepped inside it was two brothers, aged between 8-14, very passionately and nervously staring at the iPad in front of them, totally ignoring their breakfasts and their entire surroundings. They were both dressed in England’s uniform and, even though England wasn’t playing yet, they were completely hypnotised by the football on the screen.
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According to Euromonitor International, a market research company, the viewership and game attendance forecast for the World Cup is set to cross 2 billion, more than doubling from 2019. “Attendance for women’s club football leagues has grown substantially over the past five years across the top leagues. The English WSL led the pack with average attendance growing 729% (between 2018 and 2022).”
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After ordering my have-in flat white I was tempted to join the brothers for the final 10 minutes of the first half, but considering their entire family was watching with them I could barely see the score. So I decided to set up my little screening outside. It was to my surprise that three out of four tables sitting outside were watching the game. I joined one of them for the second half of the game, as they noticed my desperation when I couldn’t get my laptop to connect to my hotspot.
I made it work for Colombia-England and as more people joined the patio of the coffee shop, more people were watching the game. The atmosphere reminded me of the 2018 Men’s World Cup: you could feel the tension and the excitement,you could hear the gasps and the entire coffee shop cheering Russo’s goal and the Lionesses’ win towards the semi-final.
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The Lionesses’ win over Australia in the semi-final was watched by more than 11 million people across the linear and digital platforms of the UK’s BBC public service broadcaster. In Australia, according to the local broadcaster Seven, the game became “the most-watched television programme in Australia since 2001”, breaking local records!
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Now, I know we still have a long way to go when it comes to women’s sports and equality, but the hype and anticipation around this Sunday’s final has been amazing and kind of overwhelmingly unexpected. The UK government is literally pressuring councils to give pubs permission to open early for the final! Huge outdoor screens will be absolutely rammed from early in the morning and I cannot wait to be a part of that. I cannot wait to see the faces of little boys and girls seeing so many people cheering and supporting women’s sports (and their brains reacting to this in a way that will probably shape how they view sports in general).
So if you’re not planning on watching the Women’s World Cup final on Sunday you better fix that, and quickly.