On the 20th of January 2016 history was made when two female players took part in a DIGS league game, in Aberystwyth, a game which resulted in a 9-5 victory for Panthers. Annie Thomas and Emily Owens both started, and also both managed to get on the score sheet, giving two notable performances. Niall Jones, a Panthers player and AUFC President was clearly impressed with his teammates, “It was just a very proud day for us” and the referee Brian Williams goes so far as to say “the two girls put in near man/woman of the match performances!”. One of the girls of the hour, Annie Thomas, who also hit the crossbar with a free kick, seemed to have enjoyed the experience immensely “It was a lot of fun, the boys were really supportive and welcoming, and it gave us a good challenge to try and adapt to playing a different style of football”.
Yet this has sparked an argument, as there is now a debate in the DIGS league as if to allow female players to regularly take part. DIGS president Jed Woodcock is for the idea, “If a person wants to play football then who am I to stop them because of their gender?” and this seems to be the general consensus of Aberystwyth University and its students, as there has been overwhelming support for the involvement of these two female players, from the Student Union and its officers all having pledged their support, to social media where many having been voicing there encouragement.
There has been long standing stigma regarding women’s place in football, that it is a man’s game. However in the past twenty years there have been significant progress for equality in the beautiful game, organisations such as Kick It Out have highlighted discriminatory behaviour and worked to eradicate it, and women’s football has become increasingly popular. A prime example of this is the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015, where several viewing records were broken, and where England reached an impressive 3rd place, and it has to be said is far better than their male equivalents achieved in the 2014 men’s World Cup.
This history-making DIGS game yesterday highlights how the attitudes to women’s place in football have changed. There was full support from everyone at the game yesterday and this vote tomorrow I have little doubt will be in favour of women being allowed to play regularly, and then we can get back to the main reason we play football, the fun.