In years past, sports featuring women have bordered on entertainment employing gimmicks such as wearing minimal clothing. It has been employed in North America for over a decade with American-style football. Other sports such as indoor hockey and basketball have seen women adorned in bikinis to compete. Leading up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup of Soccer in Brazil, the Lingerie World Cup of Soccer was held.
Although FIFA holds its own women’s version of the World Cup, (of note, the next Women’s World Cup is slated in 2015), the Lingerie World Cup of Soccer is somewhat different. From the outset, this Lingerie version is not hosted, sponsored, recommended or endorsed by FIFA whatsoever. Contested as a 4-a-side competition, the pitch was nowhere near regulation size either.
Organized by Dutch TV channel Veronica, the fact that no details were revealed about the players competing does little to add any type of credibility to the event. Not knowing such details only cheapens the event, implying that the event was more about ratings and publicity than trying to build a brand. As a side note, Britain’s Daily Mail was the only media outlet that provided any type of mainstream coverage for the event outside of Holland.
Of note, the most recognizable name at the event was former Dutch international player Andy van der Meyde, who once competed for Everton in the English Premier League. Serving as referee for the event, van der Meyde oversaw competition featuring women from host country Holland, along with players from seven other countries, including Alergia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Russia, South Korea and Spain. While the host country triumphed in the event, vanquishing Spain (who played the Dutch in the finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup), Germany and Brazil, such an event can only be interpreted as entertainment rather than true competitive sport.
In a sport as soccer, with its global popularity, there is no question that sex appeal can play a significant part in the popularity of a competitor, often resulting in endorsements. Observing some of the stars in soccer, male competitors such as David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, along with women such as Brandi Chastain, Alex Morgan and Hope Solo are definitely admired for their beauty as much as their athletic abilities. Despite such appeal, their dedication to the game, sportsmanship and skill are the qualities that have long lasting impact, generating a respect that exceeds any they may possess as sex symbols.
Despite the fact that the Lingerie World Cup of Soccer made news worldwide afterwards, elements such as shock value and sex appeal were the topics of discussion. The lack of player information and statistics will never build a potential fanbase. While the concept of lingerie soccer truly adds a different meaning to the “beautiful game”, it cannot undermine the efforts of women that have worked to build the sport and serve as role models for young girls. Although there are women in other parts of the world competing in sport in a state of undress, extending the careers of some collegiate athletes (who just love to play), while helping others aspire to potentially lucrative careers in modeling or television, the human element, in which dignity and sportsmanship are considered, must be factored in to the element of sports as entertainment.