Saturday, 18 July 2015

Bend it Like Beckham...


Or work, travel and see the world.
It's a tough one!

We have a soft spot for the film ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ at our Football Club, we say it was largely responsible for our Club being! The movie certainly showcased changing attitudes to females participating in sport and inspired a whole generation of female footballers across the world. In 2002  at the time of the film, my daughter was playing for an U8 boys team in Melbourne. After the film and the surge in girls wanting to play soccer, our club was formed, and she now plays (and coaches) alongside over 200 girls and women players.

Bend it like Beckham, is a new musical in London’s West End, opening with  perfect timing given the recent Women’s World Cup in Canada. Interest in the sport today is at an all time high. A record 25.4 million Americans watched their country win the Women's World Cup final on US television, other sports are green with envy with those viewing figures.


I have just picked my daughter and a friend up from London Heathrow Airport. They are both Victorian Women’s Premier League (WPL) football players, I greet them, dwarfed under huge backpacks, soccer certainly makes you strong! They are here to do what Australian university students do at this time of year… arriving for a European summer. I stop myself from making the greeting ‘Darling, should we rethink the Greece bit?’

It’s always a tough choice to walk away from your football team mid season, especially one where you walked out last match as Captain, and one that is sitting at the top of the WPL ladder, but my daughter leaves with her team’s blessing to, in the words of her last match report, to ‘ply her trade in Europe.’  An internship awaits with an advertising agency in Amsterdam, a trip of a lifetime to South America will finish the year.

The 2016 New Year will see her return to pre-season training and an internship with Deloitte’s, her friend returns to work at PricewaterhouseCoopers. You see as much as they love the sport of football, they are bright women, they know it’s crazy to put all their soccer balls in one goal. They need options!


Two things are obvious in todays soccer world: Todays Jules and Jess's will need to wait another generation (at least) to get paid the anywhere near enough to put a Bend it Like Beckham football career plan seriously on the table. Players are only one ACL injury away from needing to have a back up plan and without this financial incentive, it will be slow growth. Other sports are managing it, take a bow women's cricket! Move over equal pay at the tennis Grand Slams, football would like some of that treatment.

Our sport may be young but we are growing. In Australia our Socceroos Asian Cup win has been attributed to an explosion of soccer in the suburbs, with over 8,000 young girls registering to play with Football Federation Victoria this season. Our football talent is emerging and will surely be helped by the Australian Matilda's history making performance, the same must be said in  England after the phenomenal support shown for the Lionesses after their heartbreaking exit at the semi-finals.

So with a mix of growing interest in the sport and increased media coverage let's hope the financial playing field evens up just a little. If you could earn a Beckham (or shall we say these days a Messi) salary then it might be worth having a shot at professional goal scoring, but for your average female players you need to keep your life options open…

So they play for the love of the game, for the team spirit, for scoring or stopping that winning goal, and because years ago they watched Bend it Like Beckham the movie and were inspired.



If you want a great fun night out then you will enjoy Bend it Like Beckham, we did! The musical at the Phoenix Theatre, London premiered in April, and is still in review stage. We manage to score walk-in seats from the Box Office door five minutes before curtains up, in the front row of the Upper Circle for 15 GBP, a West End bargain. The theatre was full, word has obviously spread this is a fun, upbeat show, and refreshingly true to the original film in it's words, if not it's action.

Of course we know the film backwards, we can recite all the best lines Anyone can cook aloo gobi, but who can bend a ball like Beckham?’  We arrived full of hope to relive those moments back in 2002, hoping the whole theatre would leave wanting to play the World Game. It's a big ask and one which is not delivered, I wanted to see more football or at least more footballing visual affects. 




To be fair 'Bend It', the musical does included in the cast six professional women's soccer players and all credit to those who are prepared to make the gutsy transfer from kicking on turf, to walking the boards. But we did hold our breath with the professional soccer player seeing the intense concentration needed for the football juggling... C'mon pleeeease, we've got to kill the soccer bit, here's the opportunity to inspire 'Bend It' for the next generation.

So whilst the soccer was disappointing, the overall comment from our football players was 'ridiculous, but still fun'. The parts of the show we enjoyed most was the Bollywood side, not as in the initial film the football, which is slightly sad to this crazy soccer Mum. 

The actors received a standing ovation and the audience seemed rapt although the football player next to me struggled at times keeping her eyes open after a gruelling last match on another continent and jet lag! Too much singing and dancing, and not enough football action I suspect.


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