I play soccer in high heels!
by Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux
They like soccer in Turkey...in that violent, store-window-smashing, wildly intoxicated kind of way. Which is why some (and by some, I mean the New York Times) found it a little strange that during a recent premier league soccer game, the players outnumbered the spectators. The NYT admits that the weather was bad, but that this probably wasn't the reason for the low turnout - this may shock you, but - ladies were playing. Playing soccer! Which, as we all know, is a man sport.
“We’ve had men come to watch our practices and yell at our players: ‘What are you doing here? You should be at home, cooking!’ ” said Nurper Ozbar, one of the few women accredited as a soccer coach in Turkey, and the only one in Istanbul. “It’s going to take time to change this.”
And, to their credit, they're trying hard. “A lot of our work is public relations, to convince families that girls can play football,” said Erden Or, 33, the federation’s development officer for women’s soccer. But some of this convincing involves "dolling up" the women's soccer teams. And this is where the high heels come in. Logos for the league feature "a slender woman’s hand with long, red-painted fingernails cupping a soccer ball," or a soccer cleat with a stiletto heel.
Many of the teams are still searching for sponsorship, and this means that the coaches are paying out of their own pockets. And it also means that women can't think of soccer as a profession, only a hobby. But in some places, progress is being made toward a kind of Bend it Like Beckham, Turkey-style. The father of Selin, a 20-year-old striker, said that at first, "“We were worried that it would affect her posture, her character, even her sexual orientation." But when Selin was named to the national team, things changed, and now her father is a women's soccer fanatic. He's even cursing out her opponents - now, that's progress.