Russian girls deserved much more
Given the gulf in class between the two sides, Tuesday's match against England was always going to be an uphill task for Russia and it is no surprise that the hosts ran out 6-0 winners in the end. Having said that, there was certainly no lack of desire or determination from Elena Fomina's side as they battled with their superior opponents for 90 minutes. The effort which forward Ekaterina Pantyukhina put in to run back over 100 metres to prevent yet another England attack in the dying seconds was an example of how much heart the girls put into this match — something the men are often accused of not doing. Having said that, this was not a performance completely bereft of quality as, despite conceding six goals, Tatyana Shcherbak proved she is one of the best young goalkeepers in Europe with a number of excellent saves.
The superior quality that England possessed on Tuesday night did not just fall out of the sky, it came from an increase in funding and exposure of women's football by the English FA — driven by a passion for the game to grow. Unfortunately for the Russian team who took to the field on Merseyside, the Russian Football Union do not seem to harbour the same passion for women's football as they, or the English FA, do.
A fine example of this was when the teamsheets came in at Prenton Park — several of the Russian players listed, in both the starting lineup and on the bench, had not been included in the official squad list on the Russian Football Union website. This screams out an attitude of 'we could not care less about women's football.'
Next year's World Cup should be seen as an opportunity to promote football in Russia and increase participation — not just among boys, but also girls. Unfortunately, judging by the RFU's recent behaviour, it seems that they are not particularly interested in this and, because of this, the national team will continue to suffer heavy defeats to the bigger European sides.
This poor attitude towards women's football is not only displayed at the RFU, but also at other levels. For example, following her recent move to Valencia from Chertanovo, Russia striker Nadezhda Karpova was asked more about her sex life and whether she was a lesbian or not, rather than matters on the pitch. Additionally, Andrey Arshavin is on record saying he does not consider women's football a sport. What message does this send, particularly from a superstar like Arshavin, to young girls who want to play football?
These attitudes are in complete contrast to those of the English FA who have really pushed girl's and women's football in recent years with increased funding and exposure. Whilst there is a lot you can criticise the FA for in certain areas, promotion of women's football is not one one of them. The campaign that they have orchestrated has led to better coaching in girl's and women's football which has, in turn, resulted in more talented players pulling on the England shirt – as witnessed on Tuesday night — and inspiring a new generation of young female footballers.
Perhaps it is too big an ask for the RFU to match the FA's level of spending and exposure, however, the women who put in such a heartfelt and thankless performance for Russia on Tuesday night deserve better than the incompetent support they are currently receiving from those with the power to promote women's football in Russia.
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