The Star Late Edition - - OPINION - MARK KEOHANE

FRANCES Silva, a re­tired pro­fes­sional foot­baller, tweeted: (sic) “Imag­ine win­ning the first ever women’s Bal­lon d’Or. Then giv­ing an un­be­liev­able speech about how big this is for women’s foot­ball. Then ask­ing lit­tle girls to be­lieve in them­selves. Then be­ing asked to twerk. [email protected]#k off dude…”

The dude in ques­tion is French DJ and ra­dio host Mar­tin Solveig – and de­spite all his protests of mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion and hu­mour, he can, in­deed, f*** off. Sport, as with so­ci­ety, has no place for the lack of re­spect shown to Ada Hegerberg at the Bal­lon d’Or awards.

Hegerberg, the scorer of 250 goals at just 23-years-old, in her his­to­ry­mak­ing mo­ment of tri­umph as the in­au­gu­ral women’s Bal­lon d’Or win­ner, had to be sub­jected to such prej­u­dice, sex­ism and crass­ness.

For­mer ten­nis world No 1 and three-time Grand Slam win­ner Andy Mur­ray was em­phatic in his dis­gust of Solveig and the shame­ful way Hegerberg’s finest mo­ment played out. “Why do women still have to put up with that s***?” he wrote on In­sta­gram. “What ques­tions did they ask (Kylian) Mbappe and (men’s win­ner Luka) Mo­dric? I’d imag­ine some­thing to do with foot­ball… and to ev­ery­one who thinks peo­ple are over­re­act­ing and it was just a joke… it wasn’t. I’ve been in­volved in sport my whole life and the level of sex­ism is un­real.”

West In­dies crick­eter Chris Gayle got his Big Bash T20 con­tract can­celled and was kicked out of the tour­na­ment for his sex­ist be­hav­iour when he in­vited TV com­men­ta­tor Mel McLaugh­lin out dur­ing a live in­ter­view and then told her “not to blush, baby”.

Dis­turbingly, more than 50% of polls on so­cial me­dia felt Gayle had done noth­ing wrong. Equally, more than 50% felt McLaugh­lin had done the flirt­ing and “wanted it”.

The 2018 Soc­cer World Cup in Rus­sia was an­other re­minder of just how lit­tle so­ci­ety has pro­gressed in ac­knowl­edg­ing the equal­ity of a woman to a man and also of re­spect­ing this equal­ity in a pro­fes­sional work­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

TV re­porter Ju­lia Guimaraes was sub­jected to a fan try­ing to kiss her while she did her live cross­ing. “Sad… shame­ful…” she tweeted.

A pro­fes­sional col­league, Ber­lin­based Colom­bian jour­nal­ist Juli­eth Gon­za­lez Theran, was also groped and kissed by a man dur­ing a live cross­ing. No male re­porter gets in­sulted in such a way and no male soc­cer player gets asked to twerk when named the world’s best player.

Cos­mopoli­tan sur­veyed 2 235 full-time and part-time fe­male em­ploy­ees aged 18-34 and found that one in three ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual ha­rass­ment at work, yet only 29% were con­fi­dent enough to re­port it.

Sex­ual ha­rass­ment now passes in the guise of soft sex­ism or sim­ply as a “mis­un­der­stood joke”, to quote Solveig. It doesn’t help women’s soc­cer’s fight for equal­ity when Fifa ex-pres­i­dent Sepp Blat­ter goes pub­lic in say­ing fe­male play­ers could have “tighter shorts” to help boost rat­ings.

It also does noth­ing to pound the on­go­ing prej­u­dice when win­ners of the men’s World Cup get 60% more than their fe­male equiv­a­lents.

South Africa’s finest women’s play­ers were sub­jected to sim­i­lar hu­mil­i­a­tion. They were mag­nif­i­cent in mak­ing the fi­nal of the Africa Cup of Na­tions, but the vit­riol on so­cial me­dia was ob­scene be­cause they dared ask to be re­warded in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to their male coun­ter­parts. To quote Mur­ray, “why do women still have to put up with that s***?”

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