The Intangible Benefits of Watching the Women’s World Cup


This story was originally featured in MinnPost

By Ethelind B. Kaba, Executive Director

Today is the championship game for my 12-year-old daughter’s summer soccer series. I wish I could say she was one of the best players on the team— (forgive me dear child for saying this part out loud. It’s ok, somethings take a little time). What she does have is grit; The willingness to play any position without fear, the ability to celebrate wins and accept losses as an integral part of a team. 

I love watching her teammates pass her the ball and cheer her successful plays. In sports, you learn to lean on all the players, even if they might not be the best on any given day. It’s about being given the chance to rise to the occasion, the vote of confidence to try again. Beyond the health benefits of playing soccer (or any sport), I watch them and let my mind go to the skills they’re developing that will serve them well in every aspect of life—teamwork, discipline, communication, leadership, perseverance, celebrating success, overcoming losses, sense of self-belief and self-assurance, assertiveness, identity and purpose, respecting diversity, and ultimately creating a sense of belonging. It’s inspirational and empowering!
The Women’s World Cup opens this week with 32 teams descending on Australia and New Zealand. I want us to watch as many games as possible – to be thrilled, inspired, and empowered; to witness the extraordinary talent; and to hear stories of resiliency and overcoming adversities. And maybe, just by watching, we will contribute to a broader social change and advancement of gender equality.  

I tried to look up places for us to watch the game and sadly, I didn’t find much – and I can’t shake the stark difference and treatment of men’s and women’s sports. During the Men’s World Cup, the excitement was palpable. Bars and restaurant were promoting it, and every stadium held an event for it. This is a burning reminder that women deserve equal opportunities, recognition, and respect. As a society, we have a shared responsibility to challenge discriminatory practices, disparities, and perceptions that keep gender inequalities in place. 

Quick, name three women soccer players you’re excited to see in the World Cup. Can you? What if I asked you to name three men? My point is: our cultural, societal, and personal views still fail to recognize and appreciate the high levels of skill and athleticism that women bring to soccer (and all sports!) – often better than men considering the adversities that so many women face in achieving the fame and recognition they deserve. Especially in a country like the U.S., where our women’s team has won the tournament a record four times, and our men have hardly made it out of the first round of playoffs in the last 90 years! 

Supporting the Women’s World Club is an investment in gender equality and progress. Women soccer players have consistently faced significant pay disparities compared to their male counterparts. While the U.S. Soccer Federation has promised to provide an equal rate of pay between men’s and women’s national senior teams, challenges remain – including endorsement deals, overall support, less investment, less opportunities to play outside of the national level, and less media exposure. 

To challenge these disparities and perceptions, we must unite in support of Women’s World Cup. We must create a world where women athletes are celebrated and the boundaries for possibility are continually expanded. By endorsing and celebrating women’s soccer at the highest level, we encourage young girls like mine to dream big, challenge societal norms, and pursue their passions courageously – not just on the field, but in all aspects of their lives. 

Four ways to support Women’s World Cup

1. Organize Community Viewing Events: Gather friends and crowd an establishment like these here to watch the Women’s World Cup matches. By tuning in, we contribute to the overall success of the tournament and demonstrate our support for Women’s soccer. If the late-night and early morning games do not work for your schedule, then watch a replay of the match to capture the energy. 

2. Create the Hype: Talk about it on zoom meetings and amplify it on social channels by sharing highlights, and inspiring stories about the athletes. By sharing positive and supportive content, we create a digital community that celebrates women’s soccer. For businesses, display banners, posters, or specials promoting the tournament. Maybe even name a cocktail or mocktail after a favorite player. 

3. Support Women’s Sports: Buy tickets for local games and attend matches – doing so directly contributes to the sustainability of women’s sports. Volunteer as a coach or mentor with community or school leagues, which contributes to growth and development at the local level. Finally, look for organizations actively promoting and developing women’s soccer and athletics and donate to support them. These organizations often provide scholarships, coaching opportunities, or other infrastructure development to support girls’ and women’s sports. 

4. Advocate: Encourage and advocate for equal media coverage of the Women’s World Cup to give them the attention that they deserve. Write letters, call and demand coverage, and then watch them. By doing so, we help shape the narrative around women’s sports and challenge gender bias. 

5.   And if you can do nothing else, challenge yourself to answer my earlier question: Know the names of at least three players heading into the Women’s World Cup. These are incredible talented, hardworking women – and they deserve our support. 

Ethelind B. Kaba is the Executive Director of the Ann Bancroft Foundation. The organization exemplifies the spirit of its Founder, renowned explorer and advocate for women’s rights, Ann Bancroft. The organization promotes advancement in girls by providing grants paired with mentorship and ongoing development opportunities to girl-identifying K-12 youth in Minnesota to pursue their passions, including in traditionally male-dominated fields.