My personal story
R: So, where else would you like to talk about?
I: You also started to say and I think that is also an interesting topic to explore, that being a man in a sports’ world has been very advantageous for you, because indeed, as you say, women and soccer was not a big thing, it is starting now, but still, if you look at the recent world championship, that was really a big thing, everywhere in the world on television and then 2 weeks afterwards I think they had the female world soccer championship and hardly anybody looked. It wasn't even really widely broadcasted.
R: Yeah, I think in sport and generally in team sport for women, women have been able to excel as individual sport people for many, many years. And there have been great examples of their, you know, individual sports’ women. But I think from a team perspective. If you take soccer as being the global game. Everybody recognises soccer because it is a truly global game. And I suppose it's an example of the way the world is changing and the removal I suppose for me, my perception of it is that in the global game of soccer there has been the removal of the 'macho' element to it and it has introduced women and girls and female children into an environment that can give them an opportunity in life to pull themselves from a very set of circumstances. As soccer, you will find a very common denominator between very many, many of the top level soccer players in the world have come from very, very challenged social situations as in poverty. To name two of the greatest players: Maradona and Pele. That came from absolute deprivation in terms of their familial growing up. What now around the world you see girls playing soccer and it is not just the act of playing soccer because around soccer has been put a blanket of educational services and opportunities and courses and stuff like that, university scenarios.
I: So previously soccer gave men an opportunity for emancipation and climbing the social ladder and nowadays the same is true for women as well.
R: Yeah, it is beginning, it is beginning to receive recognition. It will be a long time before women soccer perhaps would reach the stature... but that is an evolutionary thing as well, I think. But the positive thing that I see happening is that it really does open up a wonderful set of opportunity for girls, women. Perhaps who may not have achieved or are not able to achieve academically what some of their peers are able to achieve and it certainly opens up the opportunity for moderately educated females to be able to go on and open up college education opportunities for themselves. And commercial opportunities are becoming really good at a sport that they love and all of that that comes with that. The creation of a very, very good lifestyle, the creation of sponsorship opportunities, etc., etc. In conjunction with the opportunity to go and receive education in conjunction with a sport and a skill set that they have. So, I think that is a very, very positive thing and I think it is a sport that opens up a number of opportunities for girls that may not have reached or are able to reach the academic level of some of their peers and yet through another avenue that they would be able to, I suppose, feel some parity with a girl becoming a professional accountant or in industry or whatever it may be. But I think those opportunities are there and I think they should be encouraged and I think that women's soccer, the level that it has reached in such a short space of time is becoming an attractive spectator sport. Some of the bigger European competitions, women's competitions, have drawn crowds, probably in excess of 20 to 30 thousand people. Which certainly puts it on par with some of the European standards of men's soccer. So, that is...
I: Do you know of any women who play soccer in your immediate circle of friends?
R: Not in my immediate circle. But we have a reasonably - for such a small country - we have a reasonably successful underage soccer team. We got to the, I think it was the quarter finals of the world championship.
I: In fact, one of my daughters plays soccer and she's very good at it.
R: It's a good sport and the entry level into soccer doesn't require huge investment for equipment and rules and skill sets and stuff like that as well. So I think that's an attractive proposition for a family to have their kids, male and female kids playing a game that doesn't have such a high cost factor to enter into. In industry and in education throughout Europe you have a scenario now - a well-recognised scenario - that women and girls are excelling academically and in moving in very strong numbers into the professional trades: the legal trades, the financial trades as in accountancy etc., etc. And I feel it's not gonna be a terribly long time before women start to appear in very, very strategic decision making positions both in business and politically throughout particularly Western Europe. There is an underbelly of opinion among the male scenario that: 'Ah, yeah, there's lots of women, they're all professional, but when it comes to the absolute, the top level, you know, it is still male dominated. I think that is being broken down, which is good to see as well.
I: The opinion that you voice now, that you welcome women in sport and that you think they also deserve a place at the top, do you think it is shared by most men in professional high level sports?
R: No, I don't think it is shared generally.
Gender did matter