Despite the Cote d’Ivoire’s poor showing against Germany in the first round, the team seemed undaunted, especially goalkeeper Dominique Thiamale who was quoted as saying “I enjoyed the game anyway…playing against Germany is just amazing, even though it was tough – but we’re genuinely happy.” There were higher hopes for the team going into the game against Thailand as the two sides were more evenly matched. But what the Thai women lacked in stature and physicality, they made up for in technical ability and were able to pull off a very close 3-2 victory.
Supporters of Cote d’Ivoire are realists. They understand how special it is for these ladies to be competing on the world stage, but as a country with high footballing standards – their men’s team ranks 24th in the world and always has a strong showing in the World Cup – they know that their women are underdeveloped and could be playing better. “They are not playing so well, but it’s the first time they are playing so they are trying their best… they are trying with their hearts.” Another Ivorian points out that women’s soccer in Cote d’Ivoire does not get much attention or funding and so development could be improved “We don’t have a plan to organise our team back home so I think we should work on that. So I’m really satisfied by what I’m seeing.” It’s this exposure at the World Cup that could really push the team forward and improve conditions for them. “I think it’s really an accomplishment to see our women represent our country. Our men do so well that we never really hear about our women so it’s really nice to see that.” Another supporter chimes in “I mean, I didn’t even know we had a women’s team. So it’s really important to support them. It’s a good feeling.”
Mexico share this passion for women’s football. You could hear the Mexican supporters before you could see them. And they are just as colourful as they are vocal. Head dresses and lucha masks on top of the green, red, and white shirts showcase the vibrant Mexican supporter culture. Women’s soccer may be a bit of a new phenomenon in Mexico but their fans can see the growth. “Obviously it’s not as popular as our men’s teams but every year passing, women are becoming more and more empowered so I think it’s becoming better and more popular,” says a woman wearing a giant feather headpiece excitedly. An official women’s league was formed in 2007 and has grown to 19 clubs competing in the Super Liga Femenil de Fútbol and 11 teams competing in the second division. The fans in Canada and abroad are hopeful for the future of women’s soccer. “Not just Mexico, but in general, being able to make it big for women and getting to that level where it’s not just small stadiums like this but being able to play in really big stadiums to many fans!” We get ready to enter the stadium and I ask what she expects from the game, “Well, the loss versus England put us in a very hard spot. So we’re just really hoping to win and see how the other teams do.”
There has been some debate surrounding the expansion of the 2015 tournament from 16 to 24 teams with some claiming that the weaker teams bring down the competition level of the tournament. But it is precisely these situations that call attention to how underdeveloped the women’s game is in some countries. It proves just how far the game has come and that women’s programs cannot be undervalued if they are to be competitive at a World Cup. It also gives these weaker teams more experience. To learn how to play the game at such a high level cannot be taught through drills. The athletes need this competitive experience to develop not only their physical game, but their mental game as well. They need to feel the pressure of going up against a #1 like Germany. You can practice game situations all you want but until you come face to face with Anja Mittag, you cannot truly understand your job as a defender. We learn by doing and that’s what the women’s game needs; more doing.