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Under-17s helping the women’s football explosion

Women’s football continues to struggle to earn recognition, let alone respect.It’s a sport totally overshadowed by the men’s game.The fairer sex can’t shoot, head, tackle or pass as well their male counterparts.Their game is, quite simply, overwhelmingly inferior.Believe all of the above and you run the risk of raising the wrath of every woman player.More importantly, you’ll be wrong.With every game, sexism is getting another boot in the bum.The sport is exploding with both professional and amateur clubs emerging throughout the world.Sportswomen who might previously have gravitated towards more genteel sports seem to have sent a strong message that the women’s game is here to stay.Those currently playing in the World Cup qualifiers in Europe this week have been doing so in front of capacity crowds. Many of the games are being shown on TV and ratings continue to soar.So it shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise that Bermuda’s Under-17 national girls’ team are snatching the headlines here.Whatever happens in tonight’s Caribbean Football Union World Cup qualifying semi-final against hosts Haiti, the local girls will return with a record far more impressive than that of any male national teams who have competed on the international stage in recent years.During the tournament the Bermuda teens have beaten the Dominican Republic 3-1, edged Trinidad 1-0 and defeated Grenada 2-0.The defeat of the Trinidadians might prove to be the upset of the tournament.Their success might give the women’s game in Bermuda an injection it badly needs.There’s no doubt that Bermuda lags far behind many countries as regards the promotion of the game.The Bermuda Football Association might claim they are providing “equal opportunity” but their website suggests otherwise. There’s no information on last season nor the upcoming season.That’s because, as far as we know, there is no senior women’s league and attempts to form a youth league have until now been unsuccessful — although we understand that’s about to change.How many women’s teams competed last season and how many will compete this year? Who knows?We have an impressive Under-17 national team but where and when do the girls play?Perhaps victory tonight could provide some answers and jolt the BFA into publishing much-needed information.The result this evening could provide a massive fillip to the game in Bermuda.Should the Under-17s win tonight they will advance to Sunday’s final and no matter who wins that game, both teams will be through to the next phase where powerhouses USA, Canada and Mexico await.That in itself might be an achievement that no teen team, male or female, in any sport, would find hard to match.* * * *THERE’S a perception that the Island’s very top athletes are more celebrated overseas than they are in their own country.Shaun Goater could be a case in point.Those watching on TV the much anticipated Manchester derby between City and United — a match viewed by millions across the globe — will have noticed that during Sunday’s game the cameras zoomed on Goater, much as they do whenever celebrity footballers are spotted in the stands.It might even have come as a surprise to some that the former Noth Village coach was singled out.That’s probably because many aren’t aware of what Goater actually achieved during his pro career.It was suggested in an ESPN report published on their website this week, and reprinted in The Royal Gazette, that City wouldn’t be where they are now if it wasn’t for ‘The Goat’.A prolific goalscorer with Rotherham and Bristol City before moving to City shortly before they sunk into the depths of the First Division, it was through Goater’s goals the club mounted a revival.He was City’s top goalscorer as they sealed promotion to the Championship and then to the Premier League and they’ve never looked back.That’s why the TV cameras fixed their sights of the Bermudian. And that’s why he remains a City legend.Of all of his goals, none were more important than those against City’s arch rival.In 2003 he smashed in two in a memorable 3-1 victory over Man United and then came on as a substitute in the return fixture to head the home equaliser in a 1-1 draw. He’d only been on the pitch for nine seconds.His face was so familiar on the light blue side of Manchester he could barely walk out in public before being surrounded by autograph seekers and admirers.He was begrudgingly praised by Sir Alex Ferguson who had released him from United having never made a first-team appearance.Now based back in England, Goater now wants to embark on a coaching career.Should he prove half as successful in this endeavour as he was as a player, then a bright future may lie ahead.