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Women’s football joins FIFA computer game

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FIFA 16, women's football, FAWSL, women's leagueBut it’s not time to get the celebratory flags out just yet.

Women’s football has had a big increase in popularity in recent months.

This is in part thanks to the success of England’s women’s team in the World Cup, which had reasonably prominent television coverage on the BBC and was widely reported in the media.

The increased exposure has led to more young women throughout the country wanting to take up football.

Girls who perhaps already played football in the park or the school playground can now get excited about having the possibility of joining a football team and taking part in a league.

Young women such as those who play for the Newark Town Vixens.

As reported in the Newark Advertiser, one player on the team, Peggy Riley, 14, explained: “I come from a family where everyone seems to play football, but no one takes the women’s game very seriously.

“That’s pushed me to succeed, and I hope we can show people what we are capable of,” she said.

All of this is great news for women’s footballers who for too long have endured barely concealed contempt about their lack of ability and the absence of viewer interest in comparison to men.

And the growing interest and support for women’s football has been demonstrated by the inclusion of a new female league in FIFA 16 – an association football simulation video game published by EA Sports for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Android and iOS.

But it’s not quite time to get the celebratory flags out just yet.

The announcement that FIFA 16 is to include women has caused outcry and controversy online. This is all before the game is even released – its distribution date is September 2015.

Women footballers, including Alex Morgan, the USA’s captain and highest paid female footballer in the world, have been subjected to sexist comments.

Following the announcement that she had been chosen to join Argentinian footballing superstar Lionel Messi on the US cover of the game, comments directed at Morgan’s twitter feed included: “Buying it to just nut on your face” and “Boobs better bounce”.

As always, the best thing to do with Twitter trolls is ignore them. But it is still depressing that so many people have reacted to positive news for the women’s game in such a disgusting way.

Interestingly, while the US and Canadian versions of the game are to feature a woman on the cover alongside Messi, the UK version won’t.

No, instead the UK cover will feature Liverpool’s captain, Jordan Henderson – very much a man.

Henderson is there after he won a public vote to appear. A vote that had no women in the running.

This perhaps demonstrates how far the UK still has to go to catch up with the USA in terms of how women’s football is perceived, recognised and indeed valued.

Fortunately for young girls, in 2015 things are changing. While more girls are playing football there is also evidence of an increase in fans attending some women’s football matches.

Most importantly of all perhaps is the change in attitude.

The inclusion of female footballers in a popular computer game like FIFA would have been inconceivable twenty years ago. As would primetime coverage of women’s football matches.

But here we are, it is actually happening.

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