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Banyana Banyana

You Go Girls

by Moby Mayibuye / 16.09.2010

The sporting world is going through a bit of a revolution. Apparently Tiger Woods can’t play golf anymore. De Villiers has a better chance of winning the lottery than keeping his job and the Pakistan cricket team are ‘entrepreneurs’. The sports addict in me was looking for entertainment. Whilst I’m a passionate football fan it would be misleading to suggest ladies football is on my radar. Its not quite beach volleyball is it? Despite my general lack of interest, when I see green and gold there is a sort of emotional trigger. My senses overload with nationalism. I could probably even watch the national lawn bowls team (for like twenty minutes). South Africa fever. Blame the last glowing embers of the Wereld Beker.

Anyway, I was hooked when I read about the possibility of Bafana being outdone by the Bantwana (under 17 girls) team. The girls secured qualification for the first time in South Africa’s history. The reward? A ticket to Fifa’s u17 World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.

They qualified comfortably for the tournament. There was optimism all round. First National Bank threw their weight behind the girls and wrote a cheque for R1 million to help the squad limber up and prepare. Leslie Sedibe, Safa CEO, stated, ”We are doing our utmost best to ensure the Under-17 women’s national team are razor-sharp for the World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.” So no surprises from Leslie then!

En route to the islands, they popped into England and defeated their English counterparts, in Birmingham, 4-1 in the first encounter – and drew the second.

My only objection is the default Safa rah-rah mandate that our teams feel a sense of inflated confidence pre-tournament. Was it warranted this time? Bantwana had qualified while the closest those poor English girls would come to the spectacle would be on television. Was this going to be a Road to Glory for our girls?

Trinidad and Tobago is a misleading host. I imagine tall West Indian fast bowlers running in and unleashing balls at illegal speeds. Or in the case of Pakistani bowlers, unleashing no balls. I digress. But it’s probably a place like any other. Only hotter and brighter. With better accents. And rum.

When not at the cricket, or soccer, I imagine I would walk the warm beach sand, smell the fresh ocean and sink cocktails. A paradise of sorts, my mind drifts, your body tingles, all the while digesting the human heat factor, as you do on Caribbean beaches. I couldn’t get those poor English girls out of my mind either. Freezing and defeated. This, sun and sea, a world away from the frozen Dwight Yorke Stadium. Named after the former Manchester United player allegedly best remembered, in both Manchester and Sydney, for his scoring exploits off the pitch.

Anyway, Bantwana met Korea in their opening game. The final result was a 3-1 loss. Post-match, the coach Solomon Luvhengo said, “Scoring goals is not something you work on; you either take your chances or you don’t. We had plenty of chances against the Koreans and we failed to take them.” A puzzling analysis. Surely scoring goals is a skill that can be trained? Perhaps his message was lost in translation.

Their second match was against ze Germans. The Germans had already humbled Mexico 9-0. When Trevor Noah said, “We don’t spank, we beat” this is what he meant. Germany outgunned Bantwana 10 -1. They were 9 -1 down at half time. Shell shocked. An improved second half performance resulted in only one further goal. I can empathize. Perhaps Solly Luvhengo will reflect on his confident pre-tournament statement, ”Were not going there on holiday.”

The girls are set to play Mexico on Sunday in a game really about restoring a smidgeon of national pride. I wish them all the best. In the meantime, I’m going to stick to what I know best – beach volleyball. While I’m at it, I may even book a holiday to Trinidad and Tobago.

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RESPONSES (64)
  1. Sarah Dee says:

    Isn’t it just so fortunate that the girl’s could, as a very last resort, provide you with some sporting entertainment? Maybe if they wore hot pants it would’ve been closer to the beach volleyball experience.

    Moabi, can you see that any humourous intonation in your piece depends on a kind of bumbling masculine , “kief, ay, bru” insecurity? Shame.

    Andy, you know this kind of piece doesn’t belong here. Send it to FHM so the morons whose testosterone to intelligence level is weighted inversely to the imagined Mahala audience.

    There are certainly important, interesting and actually humourous things to say about women’s sports than this.

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  2. Rook says:

    I dunno Sarah… that pic is awesome. Look at how incredibly hot that Korean player is. Sport is a radically masculine domain and the women’s sports that excel in attracting mainstream attention seem to be tennis (sexy) and volleyball (sexy) and hockey (increasingly sexy) and then of course there’s gymnastics in leotards(sexy). At least someone is attempting to cover the women’s u17 football World Cup… even if he is not entirely able to divorce himself from his desire to see beautiful women in tight-fitting sportswear. The thing about Leslie Sedibe and SAFA’s approach to Bantwana’s warm up is spot on – and would fit in any relevant sports write up.

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  3. Sarah Dee says:

    Oh great. AT LEAST someone’s covering it! It’s better that we tell the girl’s they’re not as sexy as the beach volleyball ladies than we tell them nothing at all.

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  4. Duiwelskloof says:

    it’s hard to find sports writers who actually attended their feminist workshops at journalism school. I commend Mahala for at least trying to shed some light on women’s football and the whole “let’s make it sexy” angle kind of ties in with the site’s approach to “personal narratives” in journalism

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  5. Sarah Dee says:

    You don’t have to attend feminist workshops to know that a respectful piece on women’s football should be contextualised in a way that doesn’t involve hot pants.

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  6. Sarah Dee says:

    Take note there in the Mahala office:

    “The whole “let’s make it sexy” angle kind of ties in with the site’s approach to “personal narratives” in journalism.”

    That’s what stories like this do. Every piece counts.

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  7. nyet comrade says:

    Sarah, they’re not gonna get it if they don’t want to. Gender politics comes a distant second to race in these here woods.

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  8. Sarah Dee says:

    I know. I’ve just been discussing how this shows that Mahala will let the black writers be as sexist as they want because they’re scared of a little name-calling.

    Don’t get me wrong guys. I love ya. But priorities. Y’know?

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  9. States The Obvious says:

    You know what I hate? When women go on about how hot Beckham is? He’s a shit footballer does his hotness somehow make him worth talking about?

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  10. Sarah Dee says:

    I agree, Sates the Obvious. But it’s all part of the same thing.

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  11. States The Obvious says:

    Aaah, yes, that whole Humans want to make babies thing.

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  12. Sarah Dee says:

    Well, that’s kinda everything isn’t it? This is probably a bit more specific.

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  13. Andy says:

    Whoa! How did you make the leap from an accusation of “sexism” to Mahala won’t edit the blatant sexism of our black writers?! WTF. There’s a whole lot of unpacked baggage that you brought to this conversation…

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  14. Sarah Dee says:

    No, it was imported from another conversation I was having simultaneously where it was elaborated. I just thought I’d throw it in in relation to the comment above it.

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  15. Roger Young says:

    Hey! I get to be sexist on this site all the time.

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  16. Sarah Dee says:

    Even if it weren’t for the sexism, the piece is way below par for this magazine. And I can’t, as a contributor and involved person, let it slide.

    What ever the un-elaborated accusations etc, the truth is that you DIDN’T edit the blatant sexism of this article.

    I’m just making a point that’s as much about broader issues as it is about this article in which they’re evident. Would you edit blatant racism from a piece by a female writer, for example? Would you be more sensitive? Probably yes. In fact definitely. Because gender prejudice is the most normalised thing in the world. Doesn’t mean Mahala should endorse it.

    Andy, this is a great mag, and I’m consistently here defending against the absurd accusations on the comment board. Take this objection seriously.

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  17. Sarah Dee says:

    Good point, Roger. You have a better mastery of irony.

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  18. nyet comrade says:

    I think you should take Sarah VERY seriously. It’s more than half your readership we’re talking about here (probably).

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  19. Andy says:

    Sorry to be obtuse but we’re sitting here in the office asking if what you’re objecting to is the line:
    “Whilst I’m a passionate football fan it would be misleading to suggest ladies football is on my radar. Its not quite beach volleyball is it?”

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  20. Sarah Dee says:

    It’s not a single line to which I’m objecting. Though without that line it may have been less problematic. It’s the “bottom-of-the-barrel” angle that it takes from the opening.

    It’s failings with regard to offensiveness, are simultaneously journalistic failings, it makes itself redundant. Maybe the girls will reclaim some national pride for us, but when the real sport’s back on, even the journalist covering this event won’t give a crap.

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  21. Andy says:

    I think your response is due to the fact that you think the journalist doesn’t give a shit about women’s football because they’re not sexy, they’re not volleyball, right? But he gave enough of a shit to research and write about the u17 women’s football team. Something that has had absolutely no coverage in any of the mainstream media…

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  22. Sarah Dee says:

    Except that he makes it clear that he did it because there was literally nothing else to do.

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  23. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, Sarah – you’re getting your ass kicked in this comment thread. Why don’t you actually post what it is that’s wrong with this piece specifically, constructively, instead of talking in generalisation? While you’re at it, where did you come up with this “Mahala will excuse blacks being sexist but not women being racist” crap? Fuck me, that’s a leap.

    And let’s get something straight on the table. The line: “Whilst I’m a passionate football fan it would be misleading to suggest ladies football is on my radar. Its not quite beach volleyball is it?” is hardly controversial. It only parallels the general female attitude to sports in general and is a personal opinion.

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  24. Sarah Dee says:

    Do you think they play because they enjoy it, and because it makes them feel proud of themselves? Or do you think they do it because they want to be patronised in the media?

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  25. Sarah Dee says:

    Let’s unpick that line of “It’s not quite beach volleyball, is it?” line.

    Why don’t you start, Anonymous?

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  26. Anonymous says:

    Right: It means that he doesn’t find it as sexy as beach volleyball. The end.

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  27. Sarah Dee says:

    Okay. Now, why is that an important thing for him to say, here? What is its purpose?

    In other words, why does he consider the best angle to take on this story to be in regard to sexiness?

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  28. Anonymous says:

    That’s not the ANGLE of the story. It’s purpose is humour.

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  29. Sarah Dee says:

    Yes. Now refer back to this comment of mine:

    “Moabi, can you see that any humourous intonation in your piece depends on a kind of bumbling masculine , “kief, ay, bru” insecurity? Shame.”

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  30. Anonymous says:

    Look, I’m not going to stand up and say I think it’s particularly funny or genius. I think it’s stupid. But the point is, however lame, it’s an attempt at humour drawing on a history of women in sport, and it isn’t the angle of the piece. The angle does justice to women’s football and general and gives them the edge over Bafana Bafana.

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  31. Sarah Dee says:

    Over Bafana, but not over beach volleyball, right?

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  32. Anonymous says:

    In terms of sexiness, the writer doesn’t think women’s football is AS SEXY as beach volleyball. What’s your problem with that?

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  33. Sarah Dee says:

    My problem is that sexiness should be an issue at all.

    If he’s so committed to giving the team their deserved coverage, why must they be simultaneously undermined by being told they’re not sexy? That’s not a rhetorical question. Feel free to answer it.

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  34. Anonymous says:

    Their sexiness and their sporting ability are two seperate phenomena.

    Sexiness isn’t THE issue here, it’s AN issue – if his opinion is that beach volley ball is sexier than women’s soccer, why can’t he write that?

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  35. Sarah Dee says:

    He can write it. Clearly.

    It’s DOES however, undermine his very subjects.

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  36. Anonymous says:

    Undermine their ‘sexiness’? And why not?

    This isn’t a take all or nothing enterprise. He thinks they’re great at sports, but aren’t as sexy as beach volleyball. Men and women are attractive to one another, and one of sports primary attractions to the opposite sex is aesthetic.

    If a woman came on here and wrote: “I don’t like soccer, but hells, that David Beckham is sexy.” Would that be sexist, or just poor writing?

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  37. Sarah Dee says:

    No, it undermines their subjectivity. They are, believe it or not, whole people.

    If a woman came on here and said they found David Beckham sexy, I would say they are retarded.

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  38. Anonymous says:

    By the way, the more I look over this piece, the more apparent what a terrible piece of writing it is. Particularly that non-sequitur conclusion.

    But still – the mention of the beach volleyball thing is operating a very cliched ournalistic/literal device here. The setup is that he approaches something with one attitude, and is convinced of other things in the process. His conclusion (I’ll stick to what I know best – beach volleyball) is probably the most damning line in the whole article.

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  39. Anonymous says:

    Fine, you can call him retarded – I’ll agree with you. But to call his writing ‘sexist’, then lambast Mahala for letting it through, then accuse them of deliberately giving less hassle to sexist male writers rather than racist female writers – which were all original contentions of yours – is out of order.

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  40. Sarah Dee says:

    And even though you argue it in such simple terms, their sexiness and their sporting ability are not removed from each other. Their worth as athletes is clearly related to their sexiness, in that the writer would rather watch beach volleyball if he could. In their words, their lack in the domain of “sexiness” supersedes their sporting ability.

    In other words, the primary measure of a woman’s worth is her sexiness, rather than the talents and abilities she feels proud of.

    That, honey bee, is sexism.

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  41. Sarah Dee says:

    I explained my statement regarding race above. I shouldn’t have mentioned it initially in isolation. It did come across more specifically accusatory of Mahala than I meant, and obviously detracted from my real point. I wouldn’t have raised race on my own, I reacted to another comment.

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  42. Anonymous says:

    “In other words, the primary measure of a woman’s worth is her sexiness, rather than the talents and abilities she feels proud of.”

    There you go again, leaping from the particular to the universal.

    How many women out there would agree that they have absolutely no interest in soccer, other than the players’ exercise of traditional masculine attractiveness? It’s not “sexist” – it’s a typical aesthetic evaluation of the opposite sex.

    Their sexiness and sporting ability ARE removed from one another – he doesn’t watch beach volleyball for good sport. He watches it for titillation. It’s not the sexiness of the players here which makes them better international contenders. than Bafana Bafana, It’s their sporting ability.

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  43. Sarah Dee says:

    I’m glad you acknowledged the problems with the article.

    The main thing is exactly this need to raise the beach volleyball thing at all. It betrays an inability to discuss this event in other terms – terms that address the sporting ability of these girls with the respect they deserve. It’s a need to reign it into the domain of the masculine reader, to give them a reason to read it, to make them interested and secure. And I can’t sit by and not say something about that being wrong. It’s not just Mahala, it’s everywhere. But I’ve always had a lot of respect for the work of Mahala, and this was disappointing.

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  44. Sarah Dee says:

    Except that in male sports, the sexiness is not awarded more worth than the ability. It’s a kind of byproduct.

    And the commodification of the male body is a whole other area of discussion really.

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  45. Anonymous says:

    I’m eye to eye with you on the disappointment factor. This is remarkably uninspiring, cliche-ridden article that, as you pointed out earlier, appears to be aimed at a far less intellectually scrupulous audience than Mahala.

    You’ve convinced me of one thing – that the inclusion of the beach volleyball thing is certainly worth talking about in terms of its potential sexism.

    But I’m going to maintain that sexual evaluation of the other happens across both genders, particularly in the domain of sport. I don’t see it as being ‘sexist’. I see it as being just another less subtle expression of the animating forces behind a great deal of human phenomena. In fact, I still don’t think that line is sexist. If someone wants to judge a women’s sports-team in terms of its sexiness, why not? It’s not the most intelligent approach to take, but I don’t think it’s enough to qualify as ‘sexist’.

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  46. Sarah Dee says:

    There is nothing about that statement you picked out that isn’t particular to this article AS WELL as being universal.

    He will choose volleyball over football because he values sexiness more. Very specific.

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  47. Duiwelskloof says:

    hey calm down you guys… it’s just women’s football

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  48. Sarah Dee says:

    You are absolutely right though, sexual evaluation DOES happen across the genders, of course. But we also have to acknowledge the world we live in. Where the power lies.

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  49. Anonymous says:

    “Except that in male sports, the sexiness is not awarded more worth than the ability. It’s a kind of byproduct.”

    What, to the average female viewer? If Cristiano Ronaldo or whatever that fucker’s name is was a shit player, but still as ‘sexy’, I’m sure there wouldn’t be many complaints.

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  50. Anonymous says:

    Jesus, Duiwelskloof … it’s precisely NOT women’s football that we’re talking about.

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  51. Sarah Dee says:

    Duiwelskloof, that’s either ingenious pot-stirring, or dumbass-ness. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and think the former. I don’t think we need any more incitement here.

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  52. Sarah Dee says:

    Okay, this is on the path to becoming far too complicated to deal with on a discussion board. There’s a lot you can read regarding the fetishisation of the male body, and post-feminist appropriation of practices of objectification. Perhaps its better you look at that than I try to thrash it out for you here.

    I’m glad we came to agree that the article was… cheap.

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  53. Duiwelskloof says:

    sorry i couldn’t help myself… I think this is a pretty classic example of the sportswriters trap. Sportswriters are generally well meaning, averagely talented jocks who come at things with what Sarah, undoubtedly schooled in feminist theory, would call “the male gaze”. I also think the sexism in this piece is so mild that I’m surprised it elicited such a strong and sustained reaction.

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  54. Sarah Dee says:

    Most sexism is mild.

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  55. Anonymous says:

    Sarah —

    articles, books you have on mind on the topics you’ve suggested?

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  56. Sarah Dee says:

    I would start with some of the core feminist works, like Butler, Mulvey, Kristeva (though she’s a bit, obscure, in a way), etc, who don’t just look at femininity but at constructions of gender. But then there’s a diversity of work on representations of masculinity around.

    I tried to find some PDFs online for you, without too much success, but its a start:

    http://ifile.it/3l0k6ws

    http://www.mediafire.com/?oret3lr1omt

    http://ifile.it/0w7b9l1/10700-queer_theory_gender_theory.pdf

    You could pretty much google representations of masculinity, or something like that, and you’d find things. There’s stacks around.

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  57. Mick says:

    Lawd what a boring Tennis match.
    Ps: Wanna see something sexy? Watch a women’s singles final with yr eyes closed.

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  58. Sarah Dee says:

    You can’t “watch” with your eyes closed. You mean “listen”, asshole.

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  59. martian eyes says:

    “There’s a lot you can read regarding the fetishisation of the male body, and post-feminist appropriation of practices of objectification. Perhaps its better you look at that than I try to thrash it out for you here.”

    Yo Sarah. I’m interested in reading up on this. Where do I start, since you suggested it?

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  60. Sarah Dee says:

    Hey Martian Eyes, I posted a comment with some links for Anonymous, but I see it’s still awaiting Mahala moderation. I mentioned that the best place to start is with staples like Judith Butler and Laura Mulvey etc. They’re feminists, but they initiated much of the deconstruction of gender, and their discussions don’t just revolve around women alone.

    Here’s something that might be relevant. Haven’t really looked properly at it.
    http://jss.sagepub.com/content/22/4/431.short

    Also search google for Men’s Studies, and Masculinity Studies. There are quite a few journals and organisations trying to get to grips with masculinity in cuture and the commodification of the male body. There’s a wikipedia entry on it too, which has a nice long list of suggested books.

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  61. Mick says:

    I meant watch, silly..

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  62. Tim says:

    The trick is not to get too pissed girl. I think the whole Beckham Ronaldo thing says it best. I’ve heard many girls dismiss the football to talk about those players. So when Sarah says that at the end of the day men’s sport is still about sport – I disagree. It really depends on who is watching doesn’t it?

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  63. Sarah Dee says:

    A. I’m not a girl.

    B. I wish I was as smart as you. Maybe if I was a man, I would be, and I’d be able to see through this whole sexism thing, see that it’s all an overreaction and see that it’s not really so bad. If only.

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