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South Asian cricket, women’s football: when sport upsets codes

The months of June and July will see two World Cups evolve in parallel: that of cricket (from May 30 to July 14 in England) and that of women’s football (between June 7 and July 7 in France). If they are not the most publicized, these two events make it possible to show the important evolutions that these two sports bring to their respective spheres of social influence.

A feminization of football

This World Cup seems to initiate several changes. First of all, probably under the effect of the 2018 and 2019 World Cup, the number of licensees has increased by 15% since last year according to the French Football Federation, bringing the number to almost 170,000.

This is still low compared to the 2.2 million male licensees, but shows real enthusiasm. The number of club registrations has increased in ten years, and the number of women’s clubs has followed an upward trend: between 2011 and 2018 the number of women’s clubs increased from 3,000 to 5,000.

Bayern Munich fans hold up the club’s motto, “Mia san mia”, during a match against FC Barcelona in the semi-final of the UEFA Women’s Cup, April 21, 2019.
Guenter Schiffmann/AFP

A change of representation

In addition, another area of ​​change, this World Cup will be broadcast in France on the TF1 and Canal + channels, which was not the case only ten years ago. The first results of ticket sales for this World Cup show that the phenomenon is no longer anecdotal and that a change in the representation of this sport is taking place in a positive dynamic. Through this practice of football, traditionally a place for the construction of a certain virility, the work of developing a new type of femininity begins, which legitimizes a disruption of conventions.

However, this festive news should not hide the reality and the fights still existing in this sport, in particular around equal pay.

Female players continue to earn much less than male players. Thus, Ada Hegerberg, the best player in the world, earns about 100 times less than Lionel Messi, the best player in the world. An inequality that she denounced by boycotting the current World Cup.

Ada Hegerberg, Ballon d’Or 2018, 23 years old has decided to boycott the World Cup to protest against wage inequalities.
Steffen Prößdorf/Wikimedia, CC BY-NC

Wage inequality pointed out

This inequality of remuneration and also of means is decried all over the world. The latest episode took place in March in the United States, on Women’s Day, when American players decided to sue the American Football Federation for institutionalized gender discrimination (a fight already won in Norway where there is equal pay between the women’s and men’s national teams).

Strangely, in France, this debate is relatively absent. When it surfaces, it is to signal a lack of consideration by the Federation and vis-à-vis wage demands: thus last year the players of Guingamp went on strike. However, these demands seem to be little heard and relayed (even if all the French women’s teams are not subject to the same regime).

Thus, although FIFA has doubled the prize money granted to female players since the last World Cup ($30 million), the difference with the amounts granted to male players ($440 million) is not neutral. On the other hand, the brands were not mistaken and seized the opportunity since Adidas announced that women would receive the same performance bonus as men. A good way to open up to a flourishing new market while challenging the establishment of established federations.

Is this the start of a transition?

Cricket and post-colonialism

If the trend in football oscillates between the recognition of its feminization and its “Asianization” by the presence (even reduced) of India and China, cricket finds it difficult to outsource itself outside the bosom of the old British colonies (the 10 teams involved having all been colonized by the British). Moreover, even if it has been able to reinvent itself outside the colonial framework, it is struggling to feminize itself.

As psychologist Ashish Nandi and anthropologist Arjun Appadurai have shown in their work, the sport has truly “indigenized” itself throughout its history, so much so that Ashish Nandi wrote in 1989 that “cricket is an Indian game accidentally discovered by the English” as this sport has been able to respond to the culture of the subcontinent.

Bearer of mid-19th century Victorian valuesand century as the fair playthe mastery of emotions, the valuation of the team over the individual, which contributed to founding the essence of masculinity at the time, it became in the colonies a central element of socialization and the dissemination of these same values .

In South Asia, cricket did not originally promote either inter-colonial or intra-national diversity (the teams were often composed around religious communities) but rather early allowed the entry of popular classes which were accepted on the condition of complete submission to the values ​​carried by the game.

Is cricket a religion in India? Here in Bangalore, a priest officiates a ritual before the World Cup which started on May 30, 2019.
Manjunath Kiran/AFP

Build national sentiment

Over time, it has helped to build a national feeling in the vast majority of these countries for example by absorbing English cricket terminology, in particular the structure of its names, in a diversity of syntactical patterns. vernacular. This “indigenization” made it more accessible to the masses, notably through radio and then television.

Thus, in terms of audience, the cricket world cup attracted 1.5 billion people in 2015. Admittedly, the figures remain below the 2018 soccer world cup, but the India/Pakistan match in June 16 next (in the group stage) could well break audience records like the previous match in 2015 which would have gathered a billion people.

Is the cricket ground the only place where Pakistan and India can get along? Here drummer Faheem Ashraf (Pakistan) and “keeper” Mahendra Singh Dhoni (India) during the Asian Cup in Dubai, September 19, 2018.
Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP

In the current very tense geopolitical context between the two countries after the Indian strikes on Pakistani territory and the recent re-election of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, there is no doubt that this match will revive nationalist feelings well beyond those of sport.

The Commonwealth on the ground

Mainly carried by the Indians, this sport is still struggling to interest other nations outside the Commonwealth.

The hypotheses put forward revolve around the duration of the matches (sometimes several days) making them incompatible with advertising schedules or television programs. However, the arrival of the T20 format in 2003 (a shortened match format) created a new audience for this format. Despite this large audience, few French brands seem to have realized the importance and impact of this event, apart from Veuve Clicquot (LVMH group) which will be one of the official partners of this World Cup.

Finally, cricket has taken time to become more feminized, but the 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup saw its audience triple to reach 180 million people (four times less than for the Women’s World Cup). But this trend also marks a small victory in South Asian nations where the status and place of women are still battles that largely remain to be fought.

If we pay enough attention to them by looking at the strong signals they send us, these two sporting events should make it possible to rethink new ways of reading world sport and provide the beginnings of a necessary decentering of the understanding of what form our representations.

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