I've been accumulating thoughts about the WWC as I watch--just haven't gotten a chance to get it down.
So I saw--last week--Equatorial Guinea's first game of the tournament. Kudos to the commentators on ESPN for actually mentioning the allegations that several players for the team are men. I have heard other media outlets (NPR's Only a Game, for example) also talk about it. So that's good. Alas one of the ESPN guys, after noting in the pre-game commentary that two of the three accused players were not playing this tournament, urged us all to put that all aside to think about the soccer.
There were other interesting moments in that pre-game; and they seem to involve Brandi Chastain. First, on the shallower and more catty side of things, what's up with the hair? Someone needs to start a blog that deconstructs all of the Chastain's hair-dos this tournament. During this pre-game: several French braids ending in a long ponytail. She looked like a high school softball player. Who is doing this to her? Why does ESPN have such a difficult time with clothing and coiffing female commentators?
But her hair had nothing to do with her seemingly racist comment about how Equatorial Guinea, like of all Africa, is undisciplined. Not all African soccer players--just all of Africa--the whole continent. Probably not what she meant--but that's what she said. The Equatorial Guinea controversy is all tinged with racism, sexism, and colonialism. Doesn't look like the team will make it out of group play, though so I guess things will quiet down for a few years.
Follow up on Nigeria: the overt homophobia is getting a decent amount of press coverage, mostly centering on the coach who has continued to make comments about her amazing ability to purge lesbians from her team.
And FIFA just couldn't ignore it anymore, I imagine. They issued a pretty benign statement about Uche's comments:
"FIFA is against all forms of discrimination," Tatjana Haenni, FIFA's head of women's competitions, told German television channel ARD."We are here at a FIFA event and will point out that it would be best to express oneself neutrally."
Apparently Uche is going to get a talking-to and be reminded of FIFA's official anti-discrimination stance. I hope--though I have my doubts--that this little chat will be more effective than Penn State's little chats with former women's basketball coach Rene Portland, who also had a public no-lesbians policy.
Seems that some of the prominent stars of this World Cup are getting a lot of flack. The USA's Abby Wambach is in a scoring drought--which we hear about ad nauseum. But her place on the team is secure. Even with all the (successful) jockeying of line-ups by coach Pia Sundhage, Wambach has retained her prominent place up front. Germany's Birgit Prinz has not been so lucky. Her slump has resulted in much discussion in the German media and lead to her being taken out of the game against Nigeria in the second half. A theory has been posited by a German scholar that Prinz's performance has been the center of attention because the star's personal life has been kept very personal. As in--no one knows a lot about the team's star. Interestingly it sounds a lot like Wambach. We know about her large family and growing up in Rochester, NY. But not much more. Surprising that rumors about lesbianism float around these so-called private players? Not so much. Surprising that they remain private amidst these rumors? Nope. They are likely going to get criticism for their play regardless. I don't imagine adding aspects of their off-field life to those critiques is an especially appealing prospect.
And finally, an Iranian reporter and photojournalist has been taken into government custody. Maryam Majd was headed to cover the WWC but never made it. The Intelligence Ministry apparently searched her home and took some of her possessions and is currently holding her at an unknown location. Majd is one of the only Iranians to cover women's sports and is also a women's sports advocate. I have not yet heard of a campaign to free Majd or what actions the public might be able to take to help. If I do, I will post them.