“When Phil Neville did not mention the war: the Lionesses manager on England-Argentina rivalry” by Johanna Karlsson
Each time somebody refers correctly to the FIFA Women’s World Cup it pains me. It pains me because that correct way of referring to it obviously reproduces the assumption that women playing football – as opposed to men doing the same thing – is something that still needs a gender label.
Regardless of the gender label, the 2019 World Cup was an event that saw the players slightly closing the gap to their male counterparts. It was a tournament that offered most of the factors that a World Cup usually provides. There was some really good football played on the pitch. There was also a small amount of political controversy when it turned out that the winning US team would not put up with the underwhelming financial compensation that the US Soccer Federation offered and thus filed suit for gender discrimination. And then there was Phil Neville. He coached the Lionesses to a semi-final (where they lost to the USA), but was when appointed manager in January 2018 initially seen as a controversial choice. Shortly after the announcement, a series of 2012 tweets went viral. The tweets included what could easily be read as jokes about domestic abuse. Just a couple of months after the earth-shattering activism that gathered under vast umbrella that was #metoo, an apology was crucial.
Anybody with ever so slight an interest in the histories of Britain and/or football knows that a men’s game between England and Argentina is never just a sporting event. The history between England and Argentina on the pitch is as much a history of war. When Diego Maradona explained his actions that led to his infamous “Hand of God” goal in the 1986 World Cup, he stated that the gloriously illegal goal was a revenge for the Falklands war.
England and Argentina were both in Group D for the initial stages of the 2019 tournament. England had already beaten Scotland in a 2-1 victory, whereas Argentina, after their 0-0 tie with Japan, still waited to triumph.
With all the mythology surrounding the men’s rivalry, it would be easy to believe that the women’s sides had never met prior. During the pre-match Lionesses press conference, journalists asked Neville, who was up on the podium with Lioness Demi Stokes, to talk them through how his own love of the game had sprung from the history of England vs. Argentina. Neville referred back to some legendary men’s World Cup moments: “There’s a great history […] You think ‘86, the Owen goal in ‘98, the Beckham goal and 2002 Sapporo… Outstanding history. You’ve got a country that’s unbelievably proud”.
Towards the end of the conference broadcast, a BBC reporter asked Neville why he, in reliving the history of the men’s games, did not mention the 2007 World Cup victory in which the Lionesses beat Argentina 6-1 in Chengdu? Neville replied by again mentioning the same events, but this time instead stating that they had nothing to with what the Lionesses were just about to face: “They haven’t got the history of rivalry on the men’s side, so… it would be silly of me to start talking of the Michael Owen goal, the Beckham sending off and the ‘Hand of God’ goal […].”
Did Neville, as the Lionesses manager, made an unfair reference to the history of rivalry between England and Argentina in men’s football? Yes and no. Given the controversy occurring when Neville was appointed manager, the wise choice would probably have been to at all occasions fight the image of him as a male chauvinist and only refer to women’s football. On the other hand; it was in all fairness the reporters rather than Neville himself that, so to speak, mentioned the war – and Neville turned the situation into a performative move. When initially speaking of the legendary games that the men’s teams played and adding that it was the country as a whole (i.e. Argentina) that was “unbelievably proud”, Neville was not just speaking of the pantheon of Maradona, Caniggia, Batistuta and Ortega. He also included the eleven women that the Lionesses were about to face and hence offered an opening to the beginning of an equally legendary narrative on the women’s side. What Neville should not have done, however, was to excuse himself by stating these same events as irrelevant to what his players were just about to face.
If we want to get past women’s football and reach a point where there is only football – occasionally played by men; occasionally by women – we need the sport itself to interact with other major narratives. That is what Maradona so effectively did when he mentioned the war and defined the impact of the game to an entire world. As the manager of the Lionesses, making a household name of your team comes with the job. That is why you should always want to place your players within the greatest, most engaging narrative in your sport. And not to shy away from mentioning the war.
“Intersex rights. Living between sexes” by Nikoletta Pikramenou
Intersex people are born with sex characteristics that do not fit typical notions of male or female bodies, as a result of which they are stigmatised, marginalised and denied the recognition of their fundamental rights. Often, they are subjected to involuntary and harmful sex “normalising” surgeries at birth, which violate their bodily integrity, self-determination and informed consent, so as to comply with societal and legal norms. Moreover, binary legal frameworks prevent them from enjoying the rights to access to identification documents, start a family, or be free from discrimination in all areas including employment and sports. To elaborate on intersex violations that emanate from binary laws, this book introduces the first legal global study on intersex rights and examines the situation of intersex in regional jurisdictions worldwide and within the European Union in particular. In the process, it identifies current legal barriers and suggests how intersex people could be accommodated under legal frameworks and achieve sex/gender equality beyond binary definitions.
In detail, the presentation of intersex rights violations, which is incorporated in Chapter Two, is limited to the analysis of the performance of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) and intersex surgeries and the rights violated including the right to bodily integrity, individual self-determination, right to health, to decision-making and informed consent and access to medical records and justice. Then, the right to access identification documents, to found a family, to participate in sports and equal access to employment and non-discrimination are explored. Chapter Three limits its scope to countries that have legislated and/or developed case-law on intersex rights and are members of the UN but not of the European Union (EU). Those countries include Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines and Viet Nam. In Chapter Four, a comparative study is conducted between EU Member States’ laws. The aim of this study is to compare countries with explicit intersex legislation including Austria, Germany, Greece, Malta, Portugal, the Basque Country in Spain and Scotland in the United Kingdom to countries with implicit intersex legislation including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden. Chapter Five concludes that the male/female binary constitutes a source of inequalities for both those who identify with it and those who do not and proposes sexless/genderless equality through the introduction of genderless/sexless legal frameworks as the key to achieve equality for all.
The book is available online by Springer: https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783030275532