Women’s World Cup: African Teams Stereotyped Despite Great Performance

Nigeria Women’s Soccer Team at the 2019 World Cup. (Photo: Screen Shot)

Writing for ThinkProgress.com, Lindsay Gibbs discusses the hypocrisy of the democracy known as the sports playing field as it relates to how the African women’s teams were stereotyped. For the first time ever, two African teams, Cameroon and Nigeria, advanced to the knockout rounds. South Africa also qualified for the tournament for the first time in history, but did not advance outside of the group stages. Despite these amazing contributions to the sport and Women’s World Cup, commentators relied on Colonial and racist stereotypes about the players in their commentary. Gibbs writes:


“…as notable as this tournament has been for women’s football in Africa, it has also shone an ugly spotlight on the racist stereotypes that so many in the media cling to when discussing female football players from African countries, both on the field and off.

Both Nigeria and Cameroon lost in the Round of 16 over the weekend, to Germany and England, respectively. The commentary on both matches was redolent of exhausting colonialist cliché.

In Nigeria’s 3-0 loss to Germany on Saturday, Cat Whitehill of Fox Sports 1 quite explicitly said that Nigeria’s white, European head coach, Thomas Dennerby, had been able to tame the wild, raw athleticism on the team, and refine their skills with his benevolent discipline and knowledge.

“They haven’t put the time and effort into really helping this Nigerian side,” Whitehill said. “Somehow Nigeria keeps making it into the World Cup based on their athleticism and they’re finally with Dennerby getting a proper coach to teach them proper tactical and technical aspects to their game. I think it’s exciting for Nigeria and looking more like a side that can compete.”

Additionally, throughout the broadcast, Whitehill and her partner, Lisa Byington, repeatedly brought out the old “pace and power” trope to describe what Nigeria brought to the pitch. Not only is this notion rooted in racist stereotypes of black athletes, but it is also comedically lazy commentary considering the fact that an informed audience can witness the team’s tactics, timing, and precision in real time as the announcers simultaneously overlook it.

Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated addressed this in his daily video essay from Paris on Saturday night…”


Read Gibbs’ entire article at ThinkProgress.com.

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