22 June ~ This month will undoubtedly mark the only time I can claim Playboy as a work expense. For that, I have five German women players who have stripped off for their nation’s edition of the men’s magazine to thank. I’m not sure I have much else to thank them for though. Like most players, coaches and fans, responsible journalists these days do their utmost to discuss the game’s intrinsic merits. Not whether the girls playing it are eye-catching or wearing shorts skimpy enough for Sepp Blatter’s approval, or are lesbians.

But Selina Wagner (20), Annika Doppler (19), Kristina Gassat (20), Ivana Rudelic (19) and Julia Simic (22) are perfectly happy to be seen as eye-candy. “There are more and more cute, pretty women playing women’s football, who also like shopping and taking care of their looks,” says Simic. Gessat adds: “We want to disprove [our sport’s] butch women cliche.” This they proceed to do via 18 pages of soft focus, sun-kissed frolics; breasts bare, legs stocking-clad and bums proffered to camera.

The girls have great bodies – but any delusion that their photo shoot demonstrates female strength is scotched by the faux-lesbian action included. These posed clinches reveal anything but a display of emancipated womanhood. Rather, they show impressionable girls fulfilling a one-dimensional vision of lesbianism, wholly designed by men for their own titillation.

That said, are the girls themselves guilty of anything other than naivety? While the decision to disrobe was ultimately theirs alone, the consent from Germany’s football administrators has been clear for some time. Journalists (including from broadsheets Die Welt and Die Zeit) have been hungrily asking the question “What if the players pose for Playboy?” to the DFB, who have fallen over themselves to approve. Steffi Jones, the president of the World Cup organising committee, gave her blessing in April last year, and the national team manager Doris Fitschen granted her permission in the press in January. Even the slogan for the World Cup (which starts on Sunday June 26) is “The beautiful side of 2011”, which, according to Jones, means that the tournament is about “attractive football and attractive women”.

This smacks of insecurity and an ill-advised attempt to rise to male-dominated media prodding. The women’s game is, if you will, having its bluff called: if it demands the same respect as the men’s game, then it must be in the same robust health. Following such sophistry, objectifying the players, just as male stars can be, represents a normalisation of women’s football. The difference to David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo posing in skimpy briefs is significant: they are hugely successful sportsmen stripping off to sell pants, not relative unknowns stripping off to sell themselves.

Tellingly, none of the Playboy clique is in the World Cup squad. It is unlikely that Germany’s serial winners need anyone in the dressing room to distract from the serious business of snagging trophies. They may therefore be saddened that their sponsors Bitburger and Mercedes Benz have implicated them nonetheless in the miserable affair: both have happily paid for prominent advertising featuring the national team to accompany the magazine’s shoot. With that, all pretence has been torn down and the game is up. On the eve of its greatest competition, no one it seems is interested in taking women’s football seriously. Titus Chalk

Not suitable for work link to the pictures

Comments (12)
Comment by G.Man 2011-06-22 11:13:59

Good article. But if any of the Playboy-posing women plays for that big club in Munich, could we nonetheless sing: "Zieht den Bayern die Lederhosen aus"?

Comment by The Awesome Berbaslug!!! 2011-06-22 12:49:31

It's not ideal, but is it really any worse than the D&G campaign based on the 2006 italian world cup winning squad?

Comment by MoeTheBarman 2011-06-22 16:15:57

No one is taking women's football seriously because it's shite. Average attendances of 600 in the 'Super' league show what a niche sport it is, about as popular as the national air guitar championships.

Comment by imp 2011-06-22 17:12:05

Not a bad piece, but it's spoiled by the poor generalisation in the concluding line, and I think the writer's possibly over-stating the importance of a single issue. Once the tournament starts this will be largely forgotten. What will stay in the public's mind more when they think about women's football - the actual games and the women who played them, or the pre-tournament, fill-the-news distraction of a titillating photo-shoot involving a handful of players not even on the national squad? Anyone who's watched women's football knows that it's worth watching in its own right, and if you're coaching girls it's especially instructive - they generally relate far more to what's going on than when they watch men's games. Overall, the football itself will eventually far outweigh a bit of consensual soft porn. I'd like to imagine that the women at the top of their game, butch or not, are contemptuously sniggering at the whole thing, if they're bothered at all.

Comment by t.j.vickerman 2011-06-22 17:13:44

Yes, attendances are shite:

Comment by t.j.vickerman 2011-06-22 17:23:12

Also good to see that fine upholder of family values, The Daily Mail hasn't plastered pictures all over their website and making comments like 'Water sports: The girls seemed to be coping fine with the wet conditions'. Oh...

Well, at least they wouldn't be such hypocrites as to demand the removal of a pair of certain sports commentators for their sexist comments setting back the progress of women in football. Oh...

Normally I would link to the relevant pieces but I refuse to link to such a vile, hatemongering piece of filth.

The saddest thing is my dad (now in his 60s) buys it and claims 'it tells you what's really going on in this country'. I don't think he was being ironic.

Comment by alyxandr 2011-06-22 20:13:10


More Christian sex panic. Yawn.

Comment by Liffrok 2011-06-22 23:10:32

There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but it would be nice if women's football got a bit more coverage for events other than the Nuts/Zoo Axis of Wanking.

Comment by madmickyf 2011-06-23 01:17:25

Aren't you approaching this subject from a typically English perspective? I think you'll find that the German attitude toward nudity is nowhere near as puritanical and repressed as it is in England.

Also I've never seen any articles on here complaining about male footballers who get their kit off in magazines.

Comment by t.j.vickerman 2011-06-23 08:53:40

I don't think it's an especially English perspective. I think it's a case of getting your kit off being the simplest and cheapest way of attracting attention and publicity. Sure, they're adults and if they have no problem doing this then there's nothing wrong at all. They'll almost certainly make more money from it than from football. They will, indeed have, brought plenty of additional attention to the tournament.

I think the point is that it shows the struggle women's football has in attracting attention for the intrinsic value of the sport itself. These players have sent out the message that they value attention and celebrity more than their football careers. Surely in the 21st century it's a little sad that some women still feel they need to get their kit off in order to get attention.

The point the writer makes is that the male footballers in question are acknowledged as fantastic footballers first and foremost. The German ladies have condemned themselves to be forever known as 'those lasses who go their kit off'.

Comment by jameswba 2011-06-23 10:55:30

'Anyone who's watched women's football knows that it's worth watching in its own right.'

Definitely true but it's also true that that is not, in fact, that many people (in much of Europe at any rate - its profile seems higher in the States). The women's game seems to be improving in quality and, yes, more people are getting interested in it but it's got a long way to go before it earns the widespread respect it deserves. And these players are not helping.

Germany's attitude to nudity as such is also largely irrelevant here, as the author and t.j.vickerman illustrate.

Comment by Dalef65 2011-06-23 17:33:16

Im not entirely sure that the football will outweigh the soft-porn angle...........

If these girls actually thought that to be the case,they probably wouldnt have stripped off in the first place.......!

And how many people can remember what happened in the last Womens WC....?

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