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  • Writer's pictureSkyla Clarke

The Equality Issue with EAFC

We have all heard the story of the heroic female football player who grew up playing in a boys team, and is now a professional athlete despite the obstacles that they faced. It seems like every woman in a professional sporting career had this background, and at some point the story has become old. It’s 2023, worrying about equality in theory is a thing of the past. Right?

After many years of development, resources have been poured into the women’s game, and there are now more opportunities than ever for young girls to get into sports, including football. And the world has come to accept that women’s football is here to stay, with over 1.9 million in attendance at the recent FIFA Women’s World Cup, as well as large attendances and viewings of club matches around the world, including the USA, Europe and Australia. But for some reason, this mindset that was formed around football being a ‘boy’s thing’ is still haunting our lives, plaguing many opportunities that young girls would be grateful for.

At the end of last month EA sports released the latest edition of the FIFA games, titled FC24 after cutting partnership with the international football association. It was expected that many changes to the game were to come, including new game modes and the addition of new teams. In the past, there have been struggles with the inclusion of women’s teams, FIFA23 failing to include Champions League winners Barcelona Femení, Bayern Frauen, Benfica, Wolfsburg and many other huge European clubs. The game also failed to include many international leagues, such as the Women’s A League, which has become popular in New Zealand and Australia. And let’s not forget the fact that World Cup host teams Australia and New Zealand (as well as many other qualified countries) were also not included in the edition until the special Women’s World Cup mode was released. Despite the obvious holes in the women’s teams, men’s teams from across the world were included, including the previously mentioned clubs and countries.

A lot of excitement around the women’s game was created after a successful World Cup down under, so there were high expectations when FC24 was released. And improvements were made. The full Spanish and German leagues were released for the first time, and the English, French and American leagues were here to stay. There was still no A-League, causing disappointment for fans of the Wellington Phoenix and other Australian clubs which feature many of our World Cup stars. Limited national teams also remained, Australia and New Zealand surprisingly being left off of the roster again. It is a little bit disappointing to see that EA sports didn’t go the full mile in including more teams, but it is good to see that they have made progress.

Another issue that the previous editions have faced with the women’s game is the lack of development. The men’s players were designed to very intricately represent the real life players, the simulated Cristiano Ronaldo looking nearly identical to the real one. However, in FIFA23, it was clear to see that less resources were spent on developing the few women’s teams that they had. Many of the simulated players were bald, or looked nothing like the women’s players in real life. And according to an article posted by The Sun in March 2023, many of the models are just generic female players, not meant to look anything like the real person. Many football players responded to their appearance in the game, the overall feeling that it just wasn’t good enough. Olympic gold medalist Sydney Leroux took to twitter to state: “I know you expect women to just be thankful and grateful that you’ve given us a little sliver of publicity, but please stop wasting our time. Some of us are bald.”

It was good to see that most of the players in the new edition were relatively accurate, and the bald head bug was seemingly fixed. There are over 1500 female players in FC24, and it is great to see that the developers actually took some time to do basically the bare minimum. But can this be considered enough? Minorities are always told that they should be grateful for the little things that they get, but this isn’t equality. Equality is equal, not almost equal.

There are many other features that have been included in FC24 that were not included in the previous editions, including the addition of women in the ‘pro clubs’ mode, and featured womens uniforms such as the recently released Stella McCartney Arsenal kit. But while women fight for the smallest piece of recognition, backlash still reeks throughout the internet. Many seem to have issues with the inclusion of women in certain game modes, as well as the ratings that women’s players have received.

A massive argument that is currently popular is that the women’s players are apparently unfairly rated to be better than they are in real life. Comparisons have been made between multiple players, where many users are saying that it isn’t right that superstars like Alexia Putellas, Aitana Bonmatí and Sam Kerr are ranked higher than players such as Harry Kane, Vini Jr and Bernardo Silva. However, the key information that many people seem to miss is that the scoring system is relative. A player’s dribbling, shooting, passing, defending, pace and physicality is all ranked compared to other players of the same gender. Just because Alex Morgan has a score of 83 for pace, doesn’t necessarily mean that she is faster than Lionel Messi with a score of 80. It means that she is faster than all of the women's players that have a lower pace score than her. It’s simple information, and yet so many ignorant social media users continue to complain about how ‘disrespectful’ the rankings are to the men’s players.

These complaints run across many game modes as well. FC24 has another mode titled ‘ultimate team’ where players can be purchased and sold, in order to try and create the best team. FC24 was the first of the FIFA games to include women’s players into the game mode, but this has caused major backlash. This is because when a person purchases a mystery pack for a player, clues get revealed to them about who that player might be, to add suspense. Details like their country, club and position are revealed to increase excitement, and let people try to figure out who the player might be. However, there are inevitably women that have the same clues as certain men, causing frustration when a gamer thinks that they have received a certain player. An example of this would be the two French strikers that play for Paris St-Germain. People often think that they have ‘packed’ the legendary Kylian Mbappe, but end up with Marie Katoto. Marie Katoto is still an excellent player, but it often makes people angry that they didn’t get the player that they thought they were going to get.

But of course because misogyny still exists, apparently the real problem here is that women were included in the game, and not because they just didn’t get the player they wanted. There are hundreds of videos across social media where streamers are enraged by the fact that they got a woman instead of a man, because that is apparently the worst possible outcome. What I can’t comprehend is why this is such an important issue to these people. Women and girls who play the game finally get to feel included, and they are torn down the second it happens? It has taken decades for women to even be recognized on the game, their first feature only on the 2015 edition, after the game had been out since the late 1990s. Men have had everything that they could possibly ask for on the game, and the minute that women have some inclusion it's disgraceful? We still have a long way to go before equality is reached, and yet now it’s too much? I think that Franklin Leonard sums this up quite nicely in the quote “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

It isn’t about the fact that poor user23543950 finds it disrespectful that Sam Kerr is rated higher than Cristiano Ronaldo. It is about the fact that young girls around the world are being sent a message by many social media users that having women in sports games like FC24 is a bad thing. That having representation is less important than if you pack Erling Haaland. That young girls aren’t wanted in sporting environments. This is an ancient mindset that we supposedly abolished, right? The story continues to thrive where it shouldn’t. Girls still grow up playing in boys teams, underrepresented in all aspects of the game. So while society prides itself on how far it’s come, the equality issue still exists with little recognition.

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