It's about the game, not the garb

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

Sex sells but a lot of women soccer players aren't going to sell out because of it.

Every so often somebody from the male side of the game stands up on his hind legs and decides that good-looking women and sleeker, more form-fitting uniforms will help accelerate the game's growth.

Last year, it was the guy who runs the largest sports association in the world. FIFA president Sepp Blatter called for "more feminine uniforms" and "tighter shorts."

You could almost hear manufacturers of soccer apparel applauding . Accompanying that, though, were the moans of female players everywhere.

Recently, another heavyweight, UEFA president Lennart Johansson, brought it up.

"Absurd," was the reaction of London City Selects captain Eva Havaris.

"A soccer player should be appreciated by the way she plays. My teammates feel the same way. Nobody's going to go prancing around because some guy thinks that's the way to sell the game."

There's no question physical attractiveness is not a detriment in women's sports. Anna Kournikova of tennis didn't dominate newspapers because of her tennis, did she?

But, as if there's a hidden fairness referee somewhere, Kournikova has been replaced by fellow Russian Maria Sharapova, who is not only better-looking but is a much better tennis player.

It could be similarly argued that England international David Beckham's good looks haven't hurt his endorsement contracts but bending the ball to the back of the net has meant infinitely more.

Women's beach volleyball leaves little doubt about its promotional thrust since the athletes play in bikinis.

But soccer is more mainstream and those watching and playing it feel it will succeed on its own merits. American Mia Hamm's good looks haven't hurt the U.S. women's program but she became the poster girl as a result of her ability on the field.

Like Havaris, London Gryphons midfielder Natalie D'Oria says apparel ought not be part of the soccer equation.

Neither she nor her teammates are happy with the tighter uniforms this season.

"There's a new line of soccer uniforms out that are more catered to women and we're having a lot of problems with them," she said. "They're more form- fitting and the tops are tighter-fitting. The track suit fits like a sweater, a tight zip-up. I guess the object is to show the shape better but nobody likes them."

Havaris is convinced the game needs no artificial boost.

"I don't like big baggy clothes but I don't want to be in spandex, either. We get the guys coming out commenting on the standard of play."

Havaris then turned the question around.

"You don't go commenting on a good-looking guy who is playing," she said. "Same with Mia Hamm. It's her ability. Players are attractive because they're good soccer players."

Added D'Oria: "We should look like athletes, not beautiful women playing a game. We don't play like we're glamorous so why should be be dressing that way?"

Turning headers into goals is infinitely more important to female soccer players than merely turning heads.


Videos

Photos