Let’s Hear it for the Women Who Didn’t Make it to the FIFA Quarterfinals

I thought about celebrating all the teams who made it out of the opening round, but what I really want to celebrate is the surprising women who showed the world that women’s soccer is becoming increasingly diverse and interesting.

Here’s to 2019. Here’s to Haiti, Morocco, Panama, the Philippines, Portugal, the Republic of Ireland, Vietnam and Zambia, who made their World Cup debuts. Only Morocco made it to the round of 16, where they were defeated by France.

Not just teams were new. There were also a couple of individual firsts. Nouhaila Benzina of Morocco is the first woman to play in a hijab at this level. She is being hailed as a role model for Muslim women everywhere, and especially those in France, where wearing a hijab is forbidden while playing sports.

Nouhaila Benzina is wearing the red, black and green jersey of the Atlas Lionesses soccer team, as well as a black hijab.
Nouhaila Benzina in her Atlas Lionesses uniform.

She’s not the only hijabi though – keep an eye out for Heba Saadieh, the first ever Palestinian referee (male or female) who also wears a hijab.

Referee Heba Saadieh, in a black jersey and hijab, holds her arm up while making a call. She is wearing a microphone and looks very serious.
Heba Saadieh making a call.

With powerhouses including the USA, Canada, Brazil and Germany out, the rest of the tournament looks rather Eurocentric. I’m not sure who I’ll cheer for now – maybe Japan because they have a very Barbie-coloured away jersey, and I love a subversive feminist icon reference, even if it was not the Japanese intention.

Five or six women jump and hug. They are all smiling. They are wearing pink and lavender uniforms.
Japanese team celebrates after a goal. Photo by Marty MELVILLE / AFP)

Diane Harper is a public servant in Ottawa.

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