A World Cup Reflection from Alumna Hanna Fauzie

August 02, 2018

This article was written by Hanna Fauzie, an alumna of the 2015 GSMP: Empower Women through Sports exchange and Indonesian sports journalist who was assigned to cover the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

“Women are half of society. You cannot have a revolution without women. You cannot have democracy without women. You cannot have equality without women.”
Nawal El Saadawi

Without any doubt, the FIFA World Cup is the world’s most prestigious sport event. And, after one month, it was over as quickly as it started, as France was crowned champions after defeating Croatia 4-2 in the final at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

In the end, however, the tournament was not only about the passion of the 32 national teams. It was also about the pride of the countries and the love of the fans that makes the World Cup the biggest show on earth.

For journalists, the significance of the World Cup is no different. It is the highest—some call it the holiest—experience a reporter can cover. The process of being selected to go and cover the World Cup is long, especially for media personnel coming to the tournament from non-participating countries. In some cases it is even harder for female sports journalists, regardless of whether they are reporters, photographers, presenters, or camerapeople. Of the 16,000 journalists covering the event, only 14 percent were women. Until now, sports—including the World Cup—is a male-dominated field.

But in Russia this year the female sports journalists who were present made history.

Many of us were cherished as accomplished women presenters and experts doing amazing live commentary of World Cup matches. And the number of female journalists in the host cities such as Moscow, Sochi, Kazan, Saint Petersburg, Samara, and Nizhny Novgorod were more than at any other previous event. Many senior male journalists acknowledge and appreciated the increasing number.

“It’s not just men who can do this,” said Frank Hellman, a German freelance reporter. “It is good to see a lot of female sports journalist covering the World Cup. It’s not about male or female who can do better; it’s the output that counts.”

“I always addressed that we need more female sports reporters to cover big events,” said Chandra, an Indonesian senior sports journalist covering the Group C match between Brazil and Serbia. “Their work has a different taste that our readers and viewers love. Men stick with statistics and technical issues, while female sports journalists put ‘feeling’ into their writing.”

While the number of female sports journalists covering the World Cup has increased, and many female presenters and experts have gained trust and done amazing live commentary, there is still a long way to go until sports become a friendly field for women.

A female photographer from India who accomplished a professional dream of more than 13 years by covering the World Cup in Russia was initially halted by her seniors. Finally, she found the sources to continue her dream. “Sometimes, people don’t like to support female sports journalists,” she said.

Many female presenters and pundits for matches were also trolled on social media and during live broadcasts. One female journalist, Julieth Gonzalez theran of Deutsche Well’s Spanish news broadcast was sexually harassed on air. There were other incidents where fans harassed female reporters from Brazil, Argentina and France. A former professional player for Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur in England, Jason Cundy, criticized female reporters for their “high-pitched tones.”

Despite all of these challenges for female journalists, there is still much to celebrate. For journalist from countries such as Indonesia, which last participated in a World Cup in 1938, covering such an event can be a tool to promote new perspectives in the home land. The government also plays a positive role to support journalists in covering huge sporting events. Through the Wonderful Indonesia campaign reporters, photographers, and presenters are the messengers promoting tourism among journalists. And the message we want to promote is simple: the more female sports journalists we see, the more opportunities for other women to follow in their footsteps and open the door for more inclusion in their countries and around the world.