Last year I watched alongside my fellow Parisians as France won the Men’s World Cup. After the final game against Croatia, I took to the streets, along with millions around the country, and celebrated my adoptive country’s victory. It was a glorious moment that I will never forget, and one of my best memories of my time in France thus far. However, now it’s one year later, and it’s time for the women of football to take centre stage. Not only have the teams of both my home and adoptive countries qualified, but this year France is actually hosting the event. That’s right, the 2019 Women’s World Cup is currently being played in stadiums all over France, and if you haven’t tuned in yet, trust me when I say you don’t want to miss out.
Now, full disclosure, I’m actually working behind the scenes doing logistical support for this tournament, so I may be a bit biased in my opinion, but I’m not the only one saying it. Experts agree that the 24 teams who have qualified this year represent the most competitive field the tournament has ever yielded since its debut in 1991. The United States are the defending champions, and they are looking to bring their total World Cup wins to four. That being said, the Japanese, Canadian, German, and Brazilian teams will most certainly give them a run for their money, while teams such as Chile, Jamaica, and South Africa will be looking to make a statement at their World Cup debut.
In 2015, it was estimated that over 750 million people worldwide watched the Women’s World Cup. This year, FIFA is aiming for over a billion viewers, and those billion will have a lot of excitement to follow. Already history has been made with Brazilian midfielder Formiga becoming the first player, male or female, to play in seven World Cups. Seven! Also aiming to make history is Canada’s Christine Sinclair, who is looking to become the top international goal scorer in the history of football. That record is currently being held by American Abby Wambach at 184 international goals, but Sinclair is right behind her at 181, so rest assured all eyes will be on Team Canada as the tournament progresses.
Sadly, what’s also making headlines is the behind the scenes battles for equality in football. Arguably the world’s best football player, Ada Hegerberg, is sitting out the tournament in protest over the way women’s football is being handled in her home country of Norway. Jamaica, the first Caribbean country to qualify for the World Cup, did so after being repeatedly defunded, and until recently, having a volunteer coach. Perhaps most shocking is the fact that the US national team is still fighting for pay equity, despite being three time World Champions, the defending champions, and pulling in the highest US ratings for a football match ever, male or female, for the World Cup Final in 2015.
Thankfully, none of that detracted from the excitement last Friday night when the opening match between France and South Korea got underway at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. The atmosphere inside can only be described as electric, and chants of “Allez les Bleus!” could be heard long before play actually began. France went on to win that game, and they could potentially make history as the first country to hold both the men’s and women’s titles at the same time. Only time will tell if this comes to pass, but I know I’m going to be watching every step of the way. Wherever you are in the world, I hope you’ll tune in, and if you happen to be in France at the moment, check out a game if you can. It will be an experience you won’t soon forget, I promise.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.