The final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup between Spain and England will be broadcast live and exclusive on beIN SPORTS 2 ENGLISH on Sunday, 20 August.
The ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 marks four years since beIN SPORTS launched its beINSPIRED initiative aimed at giving a greater platform to under-represented sports and talent, with a particular focus on women.
The Middle East’s leading broadcaster is airing all 64 games live across MENA – with a team of analysts that include two of the Arab World’s highest profile female footballers, two former England internationals, and two of beIN SPORTS’ most experienced female presenters, the depth of insight each night is unrivalled.
Doha News sat down with three of them to find out their views on the evolution of women’s football and what the future may hold.
Nicky Crosby is better positioned than most to assess the growth of the game both here in the Middle East and in the wider world. She has covered four FIFA Women’s World Cups since joining beIN and says the metamorphosis has been remarkable.
“I remember when I was working on my first World Cup in 2011 in Germany,” said Crosby. “It was very difficult to conduct thorough research because there wasn’t any information available about female footballers. Now, you have endless amounts of opinion pieces, minute-by-minute reports, podcasts on each team – the world doesn’t just watch the games anymore, it studies the games, the players’ careers and lives. And there are amazing stories to be told about each individual player at this FIFA Women’s World Cup.”
Crosby is presenting on beIN SPORTS English channels alongside former England striker Jodie Taylor and one such story that Taylor points to as evidence of the inspiring, changing face of the sport is that of Nouhaila Benzina.
The Moroccan defender became the first player to use a hijab in a FIFA World Cup match, when she started her group-stage match against South Korea. Taylor believes the symbolism cannot be understated.
“It’s huge,” said the Arsenal striker, who helped England finish third at the 2015 tournament in Canada. “We want the game to be inclusive and that’s exactly what she’s brought to this tournament. It goes so much further than football. I hope it inspires young females not to be afraid to play football. Beyond Morocco making it through the group stage for the first time ever, which the Moroccan team is rightly so proud of, what Benzina has done is more than what any football achievement can do.”
Areej Sleem, who is leading beIN’s Arabic language coverage alongside former Jordanian team captain Ala’a Othman and Morocco’s former player and later referee Fatima Zohra, echoed Taylor’s comments.
“Regionally, there’s no doubt Nouhaila’s actions will have a substantial progressive impact on how society perceives women playing football,” said Sleem, the first female Arab presenter to cover a slew of the world’s most prestigious global sporting events.
“Undoubtedly, the practice of football has increased in recent years, yet the accomplishment of the Moroccan national team will cast a brighter spotlight on women’s football. Such accomplishments can unlock opportunities and possibilities for further successes, develop the local scene, and promote knowledge-sharing.”
This year’s tournament has involved an expansion from 24 teams to 32 teams. While many in the game were initially concerned that the inclusion of so many debutant teams might result in, to quote Crosby, “cricket scores” the result has been refreshing: High-quality entertainment, fantastic underdog narratives, and huge upsets.
Areej said it has also resulted in a “heightened global interest in women’s football showcased by record-breaking attendances and increased TV viewership”.
This year’s tournament had exceeded the total attendance record of 1.35 million set in 2015 with eight games still to go, while beIN reported a total viewership of up to 82 million so far and more than two million viewers tuning in for Morocco’s historic group-stage win over Colombia.
Crosby agrees, stating the expansion has made games so much more exciting. “We’ve had all these wonderful stories and have learned about new teams, such as Zambia, Panama, Morocco,” she said.
“It has raised awareness to what’s happening in countries where federations aren’t financially backing their women’s set up. Look at Nigeria, who have come out and said they don’t get paid bonuses, share beds when they go to national camps, and other terrible stories. We heard these stories in the women’s game 10 years ago and we shouldn’t be hearing about them now.”
The final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 between Spain and England will be broadcast live and exclusive on beIN SPORTS 2 ENGLISH on Sunday, 20 August, with in-studio coverage from Crosby, and Claire Rafferty, the former England international.
The Final will be on beIN’s free to air channel plus beIN SPORTS 2 PREMIUM in Arabic with the in-studio coverage coming from Sleem, Othman and Zohra.
“I’m really glad beIN has shown every match live and told the stories that really matter because there’s not many TV broadcasters in the world who can say the same,” concluded Crosby. “It’s been such an entertaining tournament and I hope our coverage of women’s football just continues to grow.”