A Critical Investigation Into The Impact of Hong Kong’s ‘Aiming High, Together’ football Development Programme for Women: Literature Review
part 2: Women’s football participation and development in Asia;
-Would you mind to only talk about more than 1 country in Asia (not only Japan), i.e., Korea and China?
-I would like to cancel out the camparison paragraph about Asia and Europe
for part 5: Summary
– To address the knowledge gap, it means to say smth like ‘there are many literatures surounding women’s football participation in other countries such as Japan, Korea (depending on what you can find…you get what I mean?),. However, there are little about women’s participation specifically of the age 18 or above and on the current discussing program i.e. “Aiming High, Together”. Therefore, it is worth an investigation on this topic etc.
– To address the research questions that means to include a sentence i.e., this research project is going to find out:
1. To what extent do participants find the developmental programs effective in the past 5 years?
2. What are the current barriers and challenges women at the age of 18 or above face when participating in football?
3. What are some recommendations for future improvement in the Hong Kong women’s football development?
(make it into a full paragraph)
Across the universe, significant developments are being implemented to increase women’s participation levels in different kinds of sports. For a long time, issues related to culture, gender, and sexuality in conjunction with ingrained stereotypes would act as a hindrance for women to engage in sports (Murphy et al., 2018, 241). Nonetheless, it was realized that the fundamental value of sport, which is societal enrichment and friendship development, would be achieved only when it is practiced fairly and equitably. In Hong Kong, the football development program dubbed ‘Aiming High, Together’ is a player-centric five-year strategic plan that wants to improve the social environment. One of its objectives is acknowledging that the participation of women in football in Hong Kong is quite low; hence respective participation levels will need to be improved, and the resource allocation is done abundantly.
This literature review looks to investigate present literature in relation to women’s participation in football in a bid to understand the impact of Hong Kong’s ‘Aiming High, Together’ football development program for women. The review will be structured in three parts, including the women’s football participation in Asia, the issue of gender and sports and the women’s football development in Hong Kong.
Gender and Sports
Stereotypes In Football
Extensive research has reported on the stereotypes and consistent prejudices evident in football. The gender constraints are becoming a major issue for women to emerge and attain higher credibility across all levels within the football universe, which includes coaching, the media, fandom, refereeing and holding positions of power (Hjelseth and Hovden, 2014, 9; Peeters and Elling, 2014, 621). Generally, sports have for the longest time been associated with man, masculinity and being a manly domain (Clark and Paechter, 2007, 263). Therefore, women would only be allowed to engage in sports that had no physical contact or strains. Perspiring, physical contact and competition had not been socially accepted as ladylike conduct. Women were also required to ensure that they protect their reproductive systems and would only play games that were considered “safe” (Valenti et al., 2018, 4). This would mean a sport such as football would not be part of the sports that women could play considering that they will sweat, they will get dirty, it was about competition, and physical contact was inevitable (Scheadler and Wagstaff, 2018).
Additionally, since society has consciously been trained to think sports in terms of gender, then women ended up accepting the physical limits that had been placed on them (Wilde, 2007, 6) Since they have been taught to only be in a position to do the aesthetically pleasing activities then they would not want to go past those limits. Extensive research indicated that even children got the stigma consciousness of gender in sports and physical activities (Liben et al., 2002). According to Schmalz and Kerstette (2006), participation in sports such as football, which was considered gender-specific, was very apparent between the two genders (550). The authors realized that the children curbed their behaviors and participation in football in adhering to the social norms of proper conduct that is based on gender. Also, their report found that the gender-neutral sports had higher participation levels for both genders. Finally, that children as young as eight years old did know of existing gender stereotypes and were affected by them. The findings from Schmalz and Kerstette (2006) report demonstrated that while women in football have come a long way, the gender stereotypes have played a huge role in why they did not participate. Noticeably, these stereotypes continue to persist (McClung and Blinde, 2002).
The Lack of Football Role Models
Apart from the gender stereotypes that were a hindrance, the sporting arena was also not the best environment that attracted other women to join the games (Bell and Blakey, 2010, 160). In respect to Hong Kong, the football area failed to provide enough role models that would encourage the younger ones to join. According to Hui (2019), most of the sports players have cited never being trained by a female coach. The reason for the very few female sports coaches is that the existing gender stereotypes and lack of role models propagated the inequality. Women being considered weak and emotional meant that the same way they could not be leaders at the board, in politics, in sciences, among other fields, then even at the field, they would not be any better (Hui, 2016).
Apart from lacking role models, sports such as women’s football undergoes the long struggle for it to be recognized. The men’s football is already recognized. In the past World Cup qualifying Campaign, both praises and lucrative transfers were accepted at the Chinese Super League (Tong, 2016). Conversely, the women in football are forced to juggle football with full-time careers since they do not receive any proper compensation. This becomes a discouraging factor for any woman that wants to join football since many players join the game not only as a hobby but as a career. Cited by Tong (2016), the recent reforms happening within the football environment in regards to women are still a long to ensure that this group is actually receiving equivalent support as the men. Adequate support would ensure that more women teams are available in Hong Kong that the existing ones need not engage in the search for competitors constantly (Tong, 2016).
Myths of the Chinese Traditional Beliefs
In China, the physical sports of its sports got deeply embedded in religions and rituals that were greatly dominated by men and had historically been designed for patriarchal perception (Xiong et al., 2018, 2). The position of women in marriage, family and society were generally defined by Confucianism prior to the Communist party getting in power in 1949. The rule was that the women were to obey their fathers when young, obey their husbands when married and the adult sons if they get widowed (Johnson, 2009). This view had fundamentally been ingrained within Chinese culture and religion. Therefore, women were labeled to be submissive, passive, walk, and the proper role for them was staying at home (Feldshuh, 2017, 4). The traditional gender norms led to strong preferences towards sons. Women were generally excluded from formally participating in the folk sports practices for religious reasons and practical barriers. This exclusion was an actual sports tradition (Siyong, 2014, 28). The communist government in 1949, together with subsequent social, economic and political experiments under the Marxist society, was the main reason for the creation of a socialist society that would later promote women’s rights (Zhao et al., 2012, 2372; Zuo, 2016, 7).
Women’s Football Development and Participation In Asia
Similarly, to Hong Kong, women’s football has come a long way in Japan. Notably, while in Hong Kong, the minimal rates of women joining football have been attributed primarily to the gender stereotypes, the rates in Japan were attributed to scientific reasons surrounding female biology (Manzenreiter, 2008, 247; Manzenreiter and Horne, 2007, 564). The development of formalized physical education and growing participation of women in sports would prompt a heated debate on the physical benefits and perceived threats of women’s involvement in sports (Edwards, 2007, 11). Generally, the woman was seen as an entity that is tired physically and emotionally to their reproductive organs. The commentators indicated that female sportswomen are controlled by their menstrual cycles and radical changes from puberty and menopause, fragile biology and psyche instead of being strong and externally directed as the male sports (Heywood, 1999, B4). These reasons are almost similar to those given in Hong Kong and the underlying notion is that the woman was not made for sports.
These arguments existed but the country would start opening up to accepting females playing football. Japanese women slowly began playing football in the 1960s which is a decade after Hong Kong. In the 70s, the companies and universities developed women teams across the country and they could play against each other. In 1980, the All-Japan Women’s Football tournament happened which was open to all women teams across Japan. Overtime, Japan women’s football grew in popularity to even build the country’s respective Football League. This attracted a lot of attention despite it not being professional at the start (Community Sports Committee of the Sports Commission, 2009). Within no time, professional players started to be signed in and the country fully embraced the game (Horne and Mazenreiter, 2014; Amara et al., 2005, 204). In comparison to Hong Kong, it is evident that the growth and popularity of women’s football was more tremendous in Japan than the other sports for women (Sukiyama et al., 2017, 13).
In the discussion involving women’s football. Confucianism cannot be neglected due to the influence it has had on cultures (Hong, 2012). Confucianism exerted a strong social hierarchy that prevented even talented men belonging to lower casters rising above their births. The Korean culture has been extensively Confucian and would hold on to the doctrine as they moved into the 20th century. The Korean liberation from 35 years of Japanese colonial rule in 1945 prompted the abolishment of the traditional caste system and it became a nation wherebirth was not the official ceiling to the achievements of an individual (Chang, 2010). While the communist revolution weakened and almost eliminated confucianism in China, its original place, it still exerted its influence on modern Korean society. According to Koh (2009), the deeply embedded confucianism in Korea kept its women from engaging in sport clubs since women were strongly prohibited from revealing their bodies in public including participating in sports. Overtime, the Korean society worked on accepting women’s football but in a manner that does not go against their values. As of 2012, South Korea’s women’s football had received considerable attention from the government and media several times in the past two decades (Hong, 2012). The two big tournaments, FIFA World Cup and the Asian Games did play a fundamental role in inducing the government to acknowledge women’s football. However they failed to add in sustaining the original support that was first availed by the government. In North Korea, the government displays a distinct attitude during the similar period to make women’s football a priority sport (Hong, 2012). This has been done to promote the country’s image globally with its leader showing specific commitment to make the team the best globally.
In China, negative attitudes were directed towards the involvement of Chinese women in men’s games which mirrored a Confucian type of sexism, the Chinese considered football as a men’s sport due to the competitiveness, aggression and violence. For the women that played football, they were considered to be vulgar, crude and unfeminine (Hong, 2012). Football remains to be considered a men’s game even with the success of women’s football in China. Women’s football in China is not favored and continues to lose its popularity . parents are discouraging their daughters from playing football causing a reality of having less than 300 football women players at the elite levels, the national team also only receives an allowance which is supposed to be their means to feed themselves (Nǚzú zhíyè, 2010).
Women’s football participation and development in Hong Kong
Challenges faced By women in the Football Environment in Hong Kong
Just as in other regions, the participation of worms in sports and specifically football in Hong Kong was very challenging and an impossible event for their younger ages (Lema, 2012, 14). Restrictions and social affairs in conjunction with the emphasized notion of women and girls not being in a position to join football meant that this group would never be found playing the game (Grabow and Kuhl, 2019). Women found it difficult to access the leadership and decision-making positions since they were constrained from the local to global levels (SportsPro Media Limited, 2007; Choy, 2018). Many misconceptions hindered the ability of these individuals to engage in sports, such as the two genders being different in structure meant that women could not handle the great physical activities required in sports. Another misconception is that participation in sports for the men normally acted as their masculinity rite of boys turning into men (Harris, 1973, 17; Simmons, 2011). Their participation in competitive sports such as football provided a chance for them to attain and realize self-hood and self-actualization. While self-actualization and self-hood is an important part of an individual’s life, the inferiority complex given to women hindered their ability to achieve the two through sports. Nonetheless, extensive research and shining out of factual attitudes would erase this impossibility idea, and women would start to join the football game.
Notably, the value that is placed in women’s sport was always put at a lower level due to the allocation of insufficient resources and inequivalent remuneration and incentives. The Legislative Council report (2018) in Hong Kong indicated that the country was experiencing a growing trend of more women joining football. In 2018, there were 3140 women in the country that were engaging in various soccer programs under the Hong Kong Football Association, which was a growth of 70% compared to the previous year (Yuan, 2016). While the group is evidently growing larger, the female players have indicated facing diverse challenges in their football career since theft is still on the journey of finding similar rights and treatment enjoyed by male football players. The men players play professional football hence have proper salaries and incentives. Conversely, Hong Kong has no professional league for women’s soccer; hence they have no salaries (Yuan, 2016). Many choose it as a hobby, and their life’s survival depends on other full-time jobs. The extensive focus on male teams in Hong Kong means that the women players face challenges in terms of resources such as booking pitches, having regular training both locally and overseas, among others (Lui et al., 2018, 16). Since these women are forced to work other jobs and have limited resources, then they end up having a low frequency of training.
In media platforms, women’s sports will not only be marginalized but also presented in a distinct style that represents the gender stereotypes in society. From a young age, boys grew to learn of their dominance, physical strength and power that it would easily be displayed engaged in male sports. The media platforms have been seen to emphasize the feminine traits of the sportswomen, which was illustrating how traditional gender roles were prevalent (Xue et al., 2018, 9). The sportswomen are illustrated as being delicate, graceful, modest, obedient and psychologically weak, and their successes being attributed to the male elements such as the coaches, sports leaders, fathers or husbands (Yu, 2009, 284). Notably, research has shown that the male individuals within the media fraternity are the ones trivializing the sportswomen and their achievements, while the female journalist depicts the women in sport as independent and self-reliant. This finding illustrates how male individuals have been taught to consider women as inferior persons (Deanor et al., 2016, 73). Women and girls would be less involved in all roles and levels.
With the evolution of gender roles in society came insignificant change in the representation of women in sports, including their development in football. This has been demonstrated through the development of distinct professional sports leagues for women and having an increasing number of women participating in the football league (Chinurum et al., 2014, 28). The women in these football spaces have continued to challenge the perceptions towards women in the sporting world (Flanagan et al., 2007). For them to engage in a sport like football and excel remarkably demonstrated that the limitations placed by the society on them were baseless (Jacobson, 2006). Nonetheless, while the growth is evident, men’s football teams are also advancing at greater rates meaning that the gap between them and the men still exists. Men’s football would grow in strength, garner greater media attention and commercialization. The men were receiving heightened visibility and being transformed into stars hence reinforcing the virile character of sports (Bohuon et al., 2020). Currently, the male professional football player is considered the symbol of social success and hence fueling the several representations of masculinity (Pfister, 2010; Pfister, 2018). Nevertheless, women in football are still struggling to have a media presence, have little or null remunerations, and many of the leading jobs such as refereeing remain a male bastion. Some commentators have indicated that the level of play displayed by female football players was of lower levels compared to the male teams (Bradley et al., 2014, 169; Bertolini et al., 2018). This even puts more pressure on women players to constantly prove that playing the “male” sport does not mitigate their femininity nor negatively influence their sexual identity. To this effect, the symbolic and practical gap still exists to separate male and female football and respective advancements.
Overview of the Program “Aiming High, Together”
This program’s vision is the transformation of football in Hong Kong via a systematic and integrated strategic plan so that the players become competitive against the best in the world and so that all entities, systems, processes and resources are consistently directed towards developing an environment that aids and motivates the individuals, teams and clubs (HKFA, 2014, 1). This will ensure they attain their full potential in their selected football area, whether one is playing, officiating, coaching or managing. To this effect, the program was going to improve different areas, including the football participants that are players, referees and coaches, education and training, leagues and competition, professional football, consistent player development, the style of play and the national curriculum, the football facilities and improved integrity and equality (HKFA, 2014). Hong Kong presents its own unique challenges that this strategy is set to overcome, including lacking a strategic and joined-up approach, having no consistent style of play, inadequate proper training facilities, lacking expertise in fundamental areas and lacking player career prospects (HKFA, 2014, 3).
This program acknowledges the fact that women’s football is among the fastest-growing sports in the world. However, women’s participation in Hong Kong’s football is still low, with the allocated resources remaining limited. To this effect, women’s football requires seriousness and having resources allocated seamlessly at all levels in order to encourage mass participation and develop talented players. Therefore, this program’s recommended policies include ensuring systems, structures and programs for girls’ and women’s football be similar to those of the men. Employing the National Coach and Academy Coach, working with partners to secure regular and proper training facilities for women’s football, improving marketing and promoting women’s football, and promote excellence in women’s football via the establishment of leagues, teams, competitions and elite teams (HKFA, 2014, 10).
Women’s football has its own long history across the globe and in Hong Kong specifically. Many communities have worked on accepting that women also have the capacity of playing football and excelling tremendously (Chan et al., 2016, 2). For Hong Kong, the deal was to encourage women and girls to join football teams and participate. However, the development of women’s football still holds a huge gap compared to the men’s leagues in the country. Women players still complain that they are not remunerated appropriately and lack constant resources. The Hong Kong Football Association took the mandate to create a better football environment for women. This led to the development and steady implementation of the football development program for women, “Aiming High, Together”.
There also has been extensive literature on the development of women’s football in countries such as Japan, Korea, and China. These literatures have focussed on explaining the participation levels of women in football and what has been holding them back or even pushing them forward. Nonetheless, there is limited information about the participation of women specifically those at the age of 18 and even via the present implemented program “Aiming High, Together” which was a Five-year Strategic Plan for Football in Hong Kong 2015-2020 in Hong Kong. This research seeks to delve into this research gap and assess the program’s effectiveness this far. . The research questions to guide in this research gap include:
1. To what extent do participants in women’s football find the development program effective for the past five years?
2. What are the present challenges faced by women at the age of 18 or above facing during their participation in football?
3. What are the recommendations that relevant stakeholders could implement for future improvements in the development in Hong Kong’s women football?
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