You've probably noticed, but probably havent't cared, that at this moment the Women's European Football Championships are taking place.
I should just note at this juncture that I'm writing this less than 24 hours after England's second game at the tournament and our chances of progressing are hanging by a bootlace.
But anyway, good old Aunty has shown sisterly-support by giving over BBC3 to the cause every evening - something that has riled a number of people I note. Upon the idiot/message boards of football and news sites and of course Facebook, there's a rumbling against the BBC for using "license payers' money" to show the event and that something that appeals to so few people should not be "all over" the BBC.
Two hours an evening on BBC3 is hardly "all over" - clearly not being able to see bell-ends and tarts slagging about in Magaluf and yet another episode of American Dad every night has put some people's noses out of joint. Everything has to start somewhere. How can something ever increase its popularity if it's not given the chance to flourish?
So it's on, get used to it. Or even watch it. Whoever you may be. But who is the target audience? Who should get into women's football? Men that already like football? Women who do? Women who don't? Speaking for myself, I've been a football fan since I was a child and am a season ticket holder at Oxford United. I watched the Euro 2009 final when our girls got roundly spanked (don't) by the Germans. And due to a series of unfortunate circumstances in 2011 that led to me spending the summer on my sofa ingesting nothing but ginger beer, with the help/hindrance of the red button, I managed to watch all the England games.
Why? Well, it's football. It's English football. I like football, I'm English. Two good reasons there to begin with. I didn't need converting or convincing, I just watched it and have been watching - thanks to BBC3 - other nations matches as well as our own this time.
One of the big criticisms levelled at the ladies' games is 'the standard'. Being a fan of a League Two side I'm used to this dismissive device being used as a reason not to consider anything outside of the premier league. Quite how these people have monitored the standard
of any football other than what's on in their local pub is beyond me. How do you determine the standard of football anyway? If it's on skill and ball control then there's plenty of that in the women's game. And yes, they can kick a ball properly. When I was growing up it was a fact, girls couldn't kick a ball to save their lives, but then neither could any boy who hadn't had a football dropped at his feet the second he could stand. Give anyone a football at 16 years of age who has never kicked one before - male or female - and they'll slice it like a lovely bit of gammon.
The other thing that makes me laugh is the dismissal that women's football is meaningless and a waste of time. It makes me laugh because this label is often applied by men with personalities even less developed than Calvin Harris, who involve themselves in Sunday league football that is so far down the football pyramid that you need a Time Team dig to find it. Dullards in other words, who think their tin-pot club is the most important thing in the world and take it hilariously seriously.
Another issue seems to be goalkeeping. Women can't keep goal apparently. OK, in this tournament so far, some of the goalkeeping has been almost as alarming as Sue Smith's hair, but before we criticise the likes of Karen Bardsley, let's not forget that as recently as 2010, the men were entering a major tournament with David James between the sticks. This sort of criticism would be valid were all male stoppers faultless. But they're not.
It's the same with officiating. When we get a female official in the men's game, we hear the same old tired barks "Oh they don't know the effing offside rule". Yes and every male official gets every offside decision 100% correct don't they? From what I've seen of female officials in League Two, they're a damn sight better than most, if not all of the males. I'm not sure why this is the case, maybe they try harder because of the pressure they feel they're under. Or maybe it's simply because they're genuinely interested in football and are not in fact jumped-up, balding Hitlers trying to make a name for themselves.
I'm going to have to address the issue of 'attraction' here I'm afraid. I've read and heard a number of comments about female footballers being ugly, looking like men, etc. Now, I know some women look at male footballers and judge them on 'hunkiness' and for some reason their legs, but they're not proper football fans so we can fairly dismiss them from this point. Proper female football fans of the men's game love football, not the men and when you look at some of the lumbering great oafs you can understand why. To be fair to us lads for a minute, we are naturally wired to judge women on their attractiveness, but only a real bonehead can't get beyond that.
There are times when perhaps we can judge a woman on her looks - when we're looking for a girlfriend maybe. I'm sure I'll get shouted down for that, but it's how we are and at least it's a more suitable area. But when it comes to our own Lionesses, it's a football pitch, not Chicago Rock Café (are they still going? Ours went years ago!) It is possible to enjoy something that women do without having to find them attractive first.
That's not to say that all the women are boulder-fisted child-frighteners because they're not. They're just girls. Ordinary girls that like football and one would have thought that most male football fans would think that to be a good thing. I'd be happy to have a female footballer as a girlfriend - especially if they looked like the unfortunately/fortunately named Jordan Nobbs. Or the Dutch No. 5 whose name escapes me.
Seriously though, I for one am bored by cosmetic-caked dolly-birds who may well look pretty, but underneath it all have the conversational skills of a coconut macaroon. The kind of female that lists shopping as a hobby and interest on their naturally light CVs. It saddens me that a lot of women have little or no interest in anything other than wine, clothes and creosoting themselves. I'd be made up if my daughter played, or even liked football.
Pat-stepper-in and all round arse, Sepp Blatter, suggested women should wear more skimpy kits in order to attract more fans. In a sad way, he's kind of right. There are a certain type of 'bloke' that would watch purely for that reason, but then do we really want those sorts of bozos at a football match? I don't want them at men's games, so I'm pretty sure the women can do without them. As for ladies themselves, well, I know a number of ardent female Oxford United fans and you'd think this might be the prime target for support, women who are already passionate about football. But they're not remotely interested. I couldn't get my ten-year-old daughter to watch either, but then to be fair I've struggled to get her into football full stop. The fact that women are playing it is of no consequence to her. My girlfriend cannot abide football in the slightest and is in particular turned off by the boorishness of a lot of football fans. So would she at least be intrigued by the prospect of women playing and no bloated twats bellowing from the sidelines? No, she wouldn't. This is a shame because a lot of what I feel are negative aspects of the men's game just don't appear to be present in the ladies' game at all. From what I've watched at least, I've not seen any diving, feigning injury, petulance or any moronic yelling from shaven Neanderthals in the stands.
I have to be honest though and despite my support of the Lionesses, women's football could never take the place of men's, least not in my heart anyway. But it's not really a choice of one or the other. No one's suggesting you dump the men's game, just give the ladies a try. Even if you just stick to internationals, that's cool. Don't bemoan the end of the football season and a dearth of football for three months. Let the ladies feed your appetite. It doesn't mean your allegiance to the men slips, you can do both - I do. And so it would appear then, when it comes to football at least, I love men and women. In football terms, I win and I've scored too, with a sort of bisexual kick (bicycle kick - a pun so bad it needs annotation).