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Cameroon’s women footballers don’t need lessons from a white guy

David Whitehouse
By David Whitehouse
Business Editor of

Posted on Monday, 24 June 2019 16:38, updated on Tuesday, 25 June 2019 13:50

England players celebrate scoring their first goal against Cameroon. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Phil Neville, manager of the English women's football team, took it upon himself to criticise the behaviour of the Cameroon women’s football team during their 3-0 loss to England in the World Cup at Valenciennes in France. His comments are a case of selective amnesia.

Having an ex male professional like Neville in charge of a women’s team shines a light once again on football’s double standards.

As a white British male, Neville assumes he is in a position to lecture African women on their sporting conduct. “England players would never behave like that,” was his lamentable and patently false claim.

The British media joined in the chorus, revealing in the process that they still haven’t stopped thinking of Africans as children.

  • The Guardian reported that the England versus Cameroon game had “descended into playground farce” as the Cameroon team “threw their toys out of the pram”.

The Cameroon rap sheet consists of bad tackles, refusing to kick off, spitting, and Neville’s claims that there was fighting at the hotel.

Men, of course, have been contesting refereeing decisions for as long as the game has been played, the only difference being that they more often hound the referee around the pitch (led, for example, by Manchester United’s former captain Roy Keane) rather than refusing to play.

Presumably that would have been easier for Neville to understand.

  • Spitting in the men’s game is rare, but not unknown: Manchester United’s Jonnny Evans spat at Newcastle United’s Papiss Cissé, who responded in kind, during a match in 2015.

Tales from the playground

Neville first joined the Manchester United academy in 1990. That year saw an on-field brawl during a match between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford that involved 21 of the 22 players on the pitch. The fighting had little connection with the actual course of the match, but was rooted in an obscure feud of the kind that women would long since have forgotten about.

  • One of Manchester United’s players, it seems, had been teased after missing a penalty against Arsenal in . . . 1987. Doesn’t that sound like a playground story?

The players who indulged in those antics were highly paid and pampered, while most of the Cameroon women’s team can’t make a living wage from playing football. Few stadiums are in the country are set aside for women’s matches and the country’s first academy for women footballers was only started this year.

The Manchester United-Arsenal feud rumbled on and on, refuelled by the rivalry between their managers Alex Ferguson and Arsène Wenger.

  • Phil Neville was booked after just 27 seconds in the 2003 Community Shield – a charity match – for a dangerous tackle on Arsenal’s Patrick Vieira.

A further brawl broke out between the players at the end of a match in 2003, with Phil Neville being warned by his club as to his future conduct for his part. In 2004, following a match between the sides marked by a series of bad fouls, Manchester United’s manager Alex Ferguson had a pizza thrown at him by an Arsenal player.

All this had little to do with winning the game and everything to do with obscure grudges. Cameroon played dirty, but they simply wanted to win.

  • They did nothing that Manchester United and many other male English teams haven’t matched or exceeded.

Bottom line: Neville argued that Cameroon’s behaviour set a poor example to children. That women’s teams are more likely to be lectured than men on that score shows the game has a long way to go, but the fact is that if kids playing football today are misbehaving they are much more likely to be copying the example of male English teams.

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