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‘A cultural moment’: what Bend It Like Beckham meant for UK women’s football | Women’s football

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When Yasmin Hussain was a baby rising up in Manchester within the Nineteen Nineties, she was soccer mad. At first she performed the game with boys, however when she turned 13 her mother and father informed her she wanted to discover a ladies’s group to proceed. The issue was, there wasn’t one.

At the moment, ladies’s soccer was a distinct segment sport hardly ever depicted on display. When Bend It Like Beckham got here out in 2002 – telling the story of Jesminder and her battle to play soccer towards the desires of her mother and father – Hussain was left considering: “She’s fortunate, she had a group to hitch. I didn’t have one.”

Twenty years later, followers are celebrating the anniversary of the groundbreaking movie on Tuesday and looking out ahead to the largest ever 12 months for ladies’s soccer within the UK as England host the Euros this summer season.

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When Bend It Like Beckham got here out, ladies’s soccer was not an expert sport and infrequently appeared on tv. This 12 months, tickets for the ultimate at Wembley offered out inside an hour.

However the movie ignited an early spark for a lot of ladies, and particularly British Asians, who noticed their very own experiences of desirous to play the sport however struggling to discover a solution to mirrored for the primary time.

Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley in Bend It Like Beckham.
Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley in Bend It Like Beckham. {Photograph}: Bskyb/Allstar

The panorama has since modified dramatically. In 2020, the Soccer Affiliation reported that 3.4 million women and girls now play soccer, and a 54% improve in affiliated ladies’s and ladies’ groups since 2017. Soccer is now the most well-liked sport amongst ladies and ladies within the UK.

These figures are partly because of the FA’s aggressive “gameplan for progress”, which incorporates the “let ladies play” marketing campaign geared toward encouraging all colleges to supply ladies’s soccer on the curriculum.

Hussain’s expertise mirrors the trajectory of ladies’s soccer: after giving up the sport, she educated as a coach 5 years in the past, aged 33, reluctant to desert “the one factor that provides me pleasure”.

She now coaches Frenford & MSA, a just lately setup group of 80 feminine gamers, a lot of whom are of south Asian heritage and have gone from worrying that “no person else seemed like us” to feeling “a part of the household” of their grassroots league in east London.

Parminder Nagra as Jess Bhamra.
Parminder Nagra as Jess Bhamra. {Photograph}: Picture 12/Alamy

Function fashions and illustration are an necessary theme of the movie, and are the main focus of a brand new documentary from BBC Sport to mark its anniversary. It’s a ardour mission for the journalist Miriam Walker-Khan, who examines the legacy of the movie for a technology of feminine athletes.

“I’d by no means seen a movie a few younger British south Asian girl, not to mention one who did sport. It meant a lot to me in so some ways as a result of it was illustration I’ve by no means seen earlier than or since. It’s extra of a cultural second than a movie for me,” she stated.

Though appreciable progress has been made in ladies’s sport because the movie got here out, Walker-Khan stated stigma and stereotypes nonetheless maintain again many south Asians, who’re underrepresented within the Girls’s Tremendous League. There are misconceptions that conventional spiritual or household values stand of their method or that Asians “aren’t good at sport as a result of they eat curry, they’re too weak or too small”, she stated.

Visibility has been a key driver of the game’s speedy progress in recognition lately, stated Stacey Pope, an affiliate professor of sport at Durham College. This began in 2011, with the creation of the skilled Girls’s Tremendous League, and reached a turning level in 2015 when the Girls’s World Cup garnered widespread, critical media protection for the primary time.

This created position fashions and inspiration for ladies, and helped shed the game’s picture as a “bastion of masculinity”, which had been bolstered by a ban on ladies’s soccer that lasted till 1971, she added.

When Bend It Like Beckham came out, women’s football was not a professional sport.
When Bend It Like Beckham got here out, ladies’s soccer was not an expert sport. {Photograph}: RONALD GRANT

Sophie Downey, who runs Women On the Ball, which has promoted ladies’s soccer since 2012, stated that, in addition to the professionalisation of the sport, the largest adjustments lately have been at grassroots stage.

“It’s about younger ladies having the data they will play for enjoyable and take part, and that entry simply wasn’t there 20 years in the past,” she stated.

“I feel we’re on the tip of the iceberg, we’ve acquired the Euros this summer season and that would be the largest second in historical past for the game on this nation. There’s quite a lot of room for it to develop nevertheless it’s trying actually constructive in the meanwhile.”

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