Sportswomen deserve statues too – and why wait to put them up?

With England hosting the close of business for this year’s Euros, the two statues outside Wembley Stadium are likely to garner more attention than they have in past pandemic months. One is the great English Bobby Moore at the end of Wembley Way and about 50 meters away is another honoring five legends of England’s rugby league. A former female footballer has never been commemorated in this way in the home of English football.

That all changed last week – sort of – thanks to Snapchat, which posted virtual statues outside of Wembley of former England and Arsenal icon Rachel Yankey and former Tottenham star Eartha Pond, one of the most influential players to grace the women’s national game. has created.

Pond, who is commemorated with John Barnes and Viv Anderson on the app, is the only one of the quartet not to be capped internationally. “I think for a lot of girls of black heritage that’s one of the most important positives,” said Pond, a councilor and activist who helped raise more than £100,000 for the Grenfell Tower tragedy after helping Tottenham, to secure promotion to the Women’s Super League in 2017. “Even if you are not internationally recognized due to barriers, intersectionality or unconscious bias, the ability to still be recognized outside of that selection process is extremely important.”

Feedback on the virtual statues, Pond says, was a chorus of people questioning why real ones weren’t put up. It smacks of the unconscious racial bias that reigns around statues of former footballers in the UK. Of the 200 player statues counted, only four are black. There isn’t a single woman outside of a football stadium either.

Couple that with the historical gender imbalance when it comes to celebrating women in public life – from monuments and banknotes to named streets and buildings – it’s hardly surprising that there are only three statues of female athletes in the UK. When a statue of Dame Kelly Holmes was unveiled in the village of Pembury, Kent in 2012, it drew criticism for resembling British heptathlon champion Jessica Ennis-Hill rather than the double middle distance gold medalist herself (it was so bad a local saw it found was a young Princess Anne).

There isn’t even a statue honoring Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win Wimbledon in 1956, who was also the first All England Club winner to receive her trophy from the Queen. This shortage reflects the countless black women athletes who have radically transformed British sport, but with very little recognition. Take Anita Neil, who just last month was recognized by the British Olympic Association as Britain’s first black Olympian, almost half a century after her retirement.

According to research by Dr. According to Chris Stride, a statistician behind the Sports Statues Database, the unwritten criteria for selecting statues favors memory over history and recent achievements rather than pioneers. That jibes with the narrative that was playing out when Clare Connor, the president of Marylebone Cricket Club, presented plans for a statue commemorating former England captain and cricket pioneer Rachel Heyhoe to Flint before Lord’s last month, only to make it a member According to reports, it could be dismissed as “gesture politics”.

The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup saw a record year for statues honoring past women soccer players. Four have been set up in Sweden, along with that of Lily Parr, the pioneering female footballer of the 1920s unveiled in Manchester, while Dutchwoman Sarina Wiegman, who will take over Team GB’s women’s team at the Tokyo Olympics next month, the first acting coach is to be immortalized alongside Johan Cruyff and Marco van Basten in Zeist, the Netherlands. US striker Brandi Chastain also unveiled a statue of herself in front of the Rose Bowl in homage to her jersey-ripping celebration after scoring the crucial penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup Final. Sportswomen deserve statues too – and why wait to put them up?

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