My former teammates, Alex Scott and Eni Aluko, are a breath of fresh air – their dedication and professionalism is inspiring
The football might have been brilliantly modern, fluid and exciting – but the conversation surrounding the television coverage of the World Cup has been stuck in the past. That both the BBC and ITV have chosen to have highly experienced ex-England internationals on their panels is par for the course. Yet the fact that two of them – the supremely talented Alex Scott and Eni Aluko – are women appears to have got people up in arms. Perhaps it’s because they are showing up the men with the level of detailed research they have obviously put in?
I can’t quite believe we are still having this sort of discussion – it should be a complete non-topic. Jacqui Oatley has been a pioneer for female commentators and presenters for a number of years. I know her well, and remember the fierce backlash she received when she became the first female voice on Match of the Day. I recall thinking :“What’s the problem? Is she good at her job? Yes. Does she know what she is talking about? Absolutely. So what’s the big deal?”
Yet the topic is now back on the agenda because two of my good friends and former teammates have been such a breath of fresh air. Eni and Alex have both been fantastic during this tournament. Not because they are my friends, not because they are female but because they are very good at what they do. The whole debate reminds me of when teams are looking for a new manager and people ask me who do I think it should be, a man or woman? My answer is simple: the best person for the job.
Eni and Alex are informative, charismatic and know what they are talking about. I’ve seen how much they both prepare. They take their jobs seriously and that’s obvious to see. What more do you need? The minority of people that have had a problem with them – especially some journalists – are just envious that they haven’t been offered a prime spot for this World Cup. Some people just can’t take it when someone is getting something they are not.
Being a female in a predominantly male sport, I have had my fair share of criticism, but funnily enough it’s never about my footballing ability – it’s usually something else – whether it’s gender, race or sexuality. It’s not about people having to tread on eggshells or the “politically correct brigade” having a go. It’s my real life and it happens every day.
I want every woman out there, whether at the World Cup or working in a supermarket, to know: “You are not alone, not all men are sexist, it’s just the ones that are threatened by you.”
Let’s hope we can stop having these stupid conversations comparing men and women. Let’s hope that jobs always go to the best person for the job, whatever their gender. And let’s enjoy Eni and Alex, performing at the top of their game – because you can be sure there are people waiting for them to fail. To them I say: “They’re not going to fail – and they’re here to stay.”
• Lianne Sanderson is a professional footballer who has played for Arsenal, New York Flash and England