Timothy F. Grainey (author); BEYOND BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM; University of Nebraska Press (Nonfiction: Sports & Recreation) 19.95 ISBN: 9780803234703
Byline: Ron Kaplan
Like A League of Their Own, which brought light to the underreported and long-forgotten role of women in professional baseball, the 2002 feature film mentioned in Timothy Grainey's title gave a boost to women's soccer (albeit in a less historic manner). Grainey is a sports journalist who has written extensively about what everyone else in the world calls "football." In this mix of sociological considerations, the author covers many topics under the general umbrella of the game, but they always rotate on gender issues in one way a[umlaut]or another.
In his opening section, he examines soccer's rapid growth in the United States, including the equal opportunities afforded by Title IX, the explosion of soccer as a sport for American youth, and, eventually, its almost inevitable move towards a female presence on an amateur and professional level. The intentions are the best, but after the novelty factor wears off, the pro teams have been beset by a vicious cycle of dwindling attendance, advertising support, and media interest, which invariably leads to a league's failure before a new venture comes along to try again.
The next section considers the challenges in other areas of the world, including the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, each of which face a unique set of problems. In Iran, it's the religious restrictions and subservient role of women. (The rules for modest dress that dictate the all-concealing uniforms the players must wear put these athletes at a disadvantage...