Joanne O’Riordan: Reactions to Cameroon an insult to women’s game

Why does women’s sport seemingly have to inspire future generations of wholesome players?

There are glorious scenes in The Simpsons where Reverend Lovejoy’s wife Helen yells in every single crisis or panic “won’t somebody please think of the children?” The child, to her, is a helpless and impressionable victim who is in constant need of protection from whatever the world throws at it.

The beauty of Helen Lovejoy is she can be used in moral panics to not only highlight how pure our children are, but the use of the meme can also banish all rational and reason when something totally minor gets blown up to something that it’s not.

After the England vs Cameroon game in the Women’s World Cup, the reaction had a severe pang of Helen Lovejoy.

I sat watching the game and could only think of my nieces sitting down with their parents watching the Cameroon women bring a game of skulduggery to England. We had apparent spitting (it totally wasn’t intentional but still, ew!), about a hundred million Cameroon meltdowns, a coach accusing Fifa of racism, a white coach claiming he didn’t see racism and a referee getting shoved midway through the game.


I can hear it now, my nieces looking up to their parents and saying “dad, because of the behaviour of those Cameroonians I no longer want to play football!”

It definitely happened…if my nieces could talk and were actually interested in watching sport.

The first England goal came from an indirect free kick after Cameroon goalkeeper Annette Ngo Ndom picked up the ball and the referee awarded a free kick from six yards out. Cue the spit on to Toni Duggan’s arm, and cue Steph Houghton scoring the first goal.

Ellen White got England’s second – VAR checked to make sure that White wasn’t offside, and ruled that the goal was indeed good.

And then there was a breakdown in diplomatic relations. The referee had lost the game, and, thankfully, brought the first half to a close.

Last straw

In the second half England were rescued when VAR ruled that Ajara Nchout was offside and ruled out her goal. For Cameroon players and coach Alain Djeumfa the offside call was the last straw. Nchout broke down crying on the pitch, a few Cameroonians looked on perplexed and emotional, and coach Djeumfa had to hug his players to calm them down.

The culmination of the VAR decisions had the Cameroonians feeling well and truly hard done by, and if that wasn’t bad enough self-righteous England manager Phil Neville emerged saying how that wasn’t football, and he was pretty much hoping that little boys and girls wouldn’t take any inspiration from that.

This is the same top bloke Phil Neville who managed one full game in his life only to move to women’s football to better the game and showcase how great the women’s game is to the world. He then told Cameroon’s women’s national football team to get their ship in order before throwing stones. He lectured everyone how teams mirror managers, calling Djeumfa a disgrace, and on how football should be played

Top bloke, Phil Neville.

Firstly, I have absolutely no idea if I watched the same game because all I saw was a team, in a professional sport, get upset because they felt hard done by. All of a sudden it felt like nobody had seen a game of football or even played in sports throughout their whole lives.

Top bloke Phil Neville said he fell in love with the women’s game 18 months ago. Has he not loved football all his life, and why is he categorising the women’s game as different from the game he played?

Why is it that women’s sport is getting the burden of being a perfect and pure game with its sole purpose to inspire future generations of pure and wholesome players? And why, all of a sudden, are we taking every single game individually and using it just to further our agendas even further?


Were the Cameroonians a tad bit dramatic and literally lost all composure? Probably. But it is not going to bring down all the excellent work done by women’s sport across the board.

I saw Nigel de Jong blow Xabi Alonso away with a kick to the chest in 2010, and I saw Luis Suarez try to tear Chiellini apart with his teeth. Shockingly it has not ended my love of football, and it certainly has not encouraged me to try that behaviour at home.

The onus is not solely on the women playing right now to show to future generations how to behave and how to be prim and proper. Right now the reactions to Cameroon’s women’s team is a way to masquerade sincerity and concern for future generations, and it is an insult to women’s football that all it takes is one game to undo the good work done across the board.