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The conflicting emotions of football and this Women’s World Cup final

The Women’s World Cup final sees Spain take on England in a match where as a neutral, I’m not sure who I want to win.

England Press Conference - FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images

The Women’s World Cup final is upon us. Spain take on England in Stadium Australia in Sydney to cap off what has been a fantastic tournament for fans and newcomers alike. We can all look forward to what hopefully will be a game to cap off how great a World Cup we’ve had in Australia and New Zealand. However, as a neutral, I’m struggling to figure out who I want to support.

Before I delve deeply into this piece, I feel like I should provide some context as to why I can’t just actively root for England or Spain during tomorrow’s final. England are the former colonial power of my home country so I go into every tournament rooting for every team who plays against them. On this occasion however, rooting for Spain feels like supporting a man in Jorge Vilda, who has shown that he doesn’t have the players’ best interests at heart.

England, as we all know, were one of the more powerful colonial powers for most of what we now call history. Their exploration and exploitation of various former colonies is well-known and easy to find. It makes anyone who comes from those countries, commonly known as ‘Commonwealth’ countries, feel like we can’t actively support anything good to happen to England especially in a sporting sense.

Australia v England Semi Final - FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Sure, this particular English team has players that are likeable enough. In fact, despite having no player on this current squad play for my favourite WSL team, I still have admired the composure of Alex Greenwood, the skill of Lauren James, the pressing of Lauren Hemp and Mary Earps’ goalkeeping. That isn’t enough for me to start singing ‘Sweet Caroline’ though. It’d take more than that to convince someone of my background to want England to win the World Cup.

Here’s my conundrum though. England are playing Spain.

I can’t, in good faith want Jorge Vilda to be successful. In anything. Not until he has addressed the concerns that were outlined by ‘Las 15’ and not until the federation, led by Luis Rubiales, have admitted to how the callously have treated those who decided to not come back to the team in protest.

Spain have players that I genuinely enjoy watching. Alexia Putellas is the obvious one but Aitana Bonmatí has been brilliant, Teresa Abelleira has been a revelation and Salma Paralluela has been a breath of fresh air. With such free-flowing football at their disposal, why wouldn’t anyone want to root for Spain and their brand of football? We’d all love to but then we remember that they are managed by Vilda and they have had to overcome a lot of obstacles off the pitch to produce what they have on it.

Spain v Sweden: Semi Final - FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

With Vilda, Rubiales and some of the Spanish media trying to change the narrative on how the player protest began, it makes it even harder to want Spain to succeed. Why would anyone want the Spanish federation to feel vindicated in their actions due to their success when those actions have been a cause of concern for over a year?

So what does someone like me do on Sunday? Support a team I historically have trouble getting behind, or support a team with a manager at the helm who has a “black cloud” surrounding all that he does.

I’m not sure anymore and for most people who follow women’s football, this situation has happened on more than one occasion. We can never seem to enter any tournament or league without having to sift through complicated feelings about a player, or a team’s ownership, their federation or their manager.

The sport has come a long way from where it was when I first started watching (2011) but still so much of it remains to be addressed or improved upon. Hopefully one day, I can go into a World Cup and actively root for a team that isn’t my own and not have to worry if I’m implicitly helping a terrible federation or manager with my support.