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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Lycett

Club vs. country: Why I'm enjoying this Women's World Cup more than ever

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

I used to be the person that would only tune in to watch women's football when it was on the global stage. The Euros, the Olympics, and the World Cup. A once-a-year, flash-in-the-pan, to cheer on my home nation, and then go back to playing and watching tennis.

Then, I went to an Arsenal Women's football game.

I knew instantly I'd missed out by not watching Arsenal play before, by not getting hooked sooner.

At Meadow Park, at that time, the atmosphere was quiet, with a barely perceptible hum of voices that would escalate if a goal was scored.

That meant that you could hear the players communicating on the pitch. You could hear the encouragement they gave each other, the swearing, the directions shouted from the dugouts. You could even meet the players afterwards too.

Those first few games in that atmosphere were the start of a bond that I started to feel with Arsenal.

That affinity with the club and its players has only grown over time. Through the Red and White AWFC, I sing individual player chants. The players feed us song suggestions. We have in-jokes based on promotional videos from Arsenal's social media. Lotte bought us a beer.

We learned Swedish for Stina. Manu looked to us in block 16 at the Emirates and to ask for more noise during the Bayern Munich UWCL quarter finals. We bought zebras for Kaylan.

We feel it when a player goes down injured. We don't know them personally, but we also see the team week in, week out. Basically, we care.

Arsenal pre-match photo

Now, back in the days when I only watched the big tournaments, I'd only watch England.

I'd also only watch on the TV at home. I watched for the final scoreline, without any knowledge of the other teams. It all felt a bit superficial. It was nice if England won. But, if we lost, I just shrugged and carried on.

(I will admit now, those were simpler times. When Arsenal loses, I feel the crushing weight of overwhelming disappointment that will linger for at least the rest of the week.)

Before this World Cup started, I did of course aim to watch, but planned to do my usual and only watch England. In the off season, I seriously miss club football. I miss seeing all of our players on the pitch together.

The World Cup would have to do in the interim, I thought, but I'm club over country first and foremost.

England team photo

But, to my surprise, club football has made the World Cup more interesting.

A week or so before the World Cup, I started to get excited for the Australia vs. Ireland game (and it of course delivered).

Then I realised that, with 15 Arsenal players at the World Cup, it's a chance to see our players excel on the world stage - and I was here for it.

I feel a strange sense of pride when our players do well.

Amanda Ilestedt scoring? Wonderful news. Sam Kerr out injured? Time for Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord to shine.

I understand each team's strengths and weaknesses based on their players, many of whom we've played against. I have a deeper understanding of their tactics and the formations.

I enjoy watching all the games purely to see the skill of the best players in the world, and to marvel at the subs coming off the bench, because I now know what they're capable of.

I also know who I'd rather win out of each clash.

Normally, it's the underdog or a team with more of our players. It means that I'm more invested and engaged in every game.

I know that, if England doesn't make it through to the latter stages, I'll then be rooting for Australia and Ireland and Norway and Sweden and many more.

I wouldn't be happy if one of our players scored against England, but, until that problem arises, I'm going to continue being happy when any of our players do well.

Leah and Lessi playing for England

It's still not the perfect replacement for club football.

One of the reasons I love that so much is the socialising. I go to watch the game, of course, but you can see more on TV. I normally rewatch games for that very reason.

I go because I love to see my friends and to be in that football atmosphere where everyone's of one mind: "I want my team to win". And, of course, for Arsenal, it's a team and it's a family and you can tell that in the way that they play.

The World Cup lacks those things that Arsenal can offer.

I'm sitting watching most games on my own - either in a very distracted manner while at work or a very tired manner, when it's early morning. We've had to create a new Whatsapp group just to replicate that chat around the games at a distance.

Even going to watch England play in person this past year, the atmosphere was a little bland. It's not as fiery or passionate as when we're watching Arsenal.

The players - for England at least - are also not quite gelling.

Their opening match was a scrappy one, and you can see the glaring weaknesses in their game, left by the absence of key players and a lack of time playing together to make it right.

It's not as fluid so it's less enjoyable to watch, despite the immense amount of skill on the pitch. For other teams this isn't the case - that Brazil goal!! - but it still detracts from my enjoyment.

I'll always be club over country.

Watching England or Great Britain play will never match club football. I will always feel more invested in our players than those that could potentially be our rivals by the start of next season.

But, this time around, I'll take much more from the World Cup than I ever did before. And that's all thanks to my love of Arsenal.

Post-goal high fives for England

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