Friday, July 1, 2011


By Ajit Chaudhuri

Alternative summers are a bleak time for football fans (except for the truly desperate who follow the Russian and/or Norwegian leagues). The Champion’s League final closes the season in end-May, and one has to wait until the next season’s kick-off in mid-August (unless it is a World Cup or European Championship, i.e. an even number, year) for a glimpse of football. Odd number years’ summers are usually spent catching up with friends and family and doing all those things that football normally provides you with an excuse not to do. But this year – something has changed! There is a Women’s World Cup on (26 June to 17 July) and it has a difference!

Those of us who love sports and women know that the twain do not meet, with the honourable exception of women’s volleyball, and that these loves are best not combined. I, for one, followed the Women’s World Cup in 1991 (won by Germany) and swore never to repeat the experience – the football was mediocre, and most of the players looked like prison guards in drag.

The first hint that things had changed was earlier this month when, an ESPN website for the serious football fan, alerted me to a film featuring three stars from the German junior women’s team of 2010 that was made for Playboy. The women (Selina Wagner, Julia Simic and Kristine Gessat – the film is on Youtube) were beautiful by any standards, they were professional footballers, and they said they were doing this to generate interest in the Women’s World Cup (WWC) that is being hosted by Germany. Well, to put it bluntly, my interest got generated!

And so, dear readers, I have been watching the action from the WWC. What follows is a list of 10 players who catch the eye for both looks and football skills. The list is in alphabetical order. Here’s hoping that this generates a subsequent interest in this oft-neglected sub-sect of football. Here goes!

Corine Franco, 28 years, defender, France: She’s just short of 6 feet, and she can play in the heart of the defence, in the Makalele, and as a deep lying playmaker a la Xabi Alonzo or Andrea Pirlo. She is also on covers of magazines that have nothing to do with football, for all the right reasons.

Desire Oparanozie, 18 years, forward, Nigeria: She caught the eye for her football skills and her looks at the 2010 junior world cup and has made a smooth transition to the senior Nigerian team. One of those for the future!

Fatmire Bajramaj, 23 years, midfielder, Germany: Her background as a Kosovan refugee from the Balkan Wars makes her the face of German multi-culturalism, a bit like Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira for the men’s team. Like Ozil, she is a creative midfielder or a trequartista. Her transfer this year from Potsdam to Frankfurt is the most expensive in Bundesliga history.

Josefine Oqvist, 28 years, forward, Sweden: This beautiful blonde has appeared on the covers of racy Swedish girly magazines. She also has 11 goals in 49 appearances as a striker for the Swedish national team.

Kaylyn Kyle, 23 years, midfielder, Canada: Another glamorous blonde!

Louisa Necib, 24 years, midfielder, France: An up and coming French team whose creative lynchpin is of Algerian descent. Sounds like the le Bleu of the late 1990s? No, it’s the current French women’s team and its playmaker, a leggy beauty, makes the fashion and sports pages.

Mana Iwabuchi, 18 years, forward, Japan: This diminutive (155 cm) striker is the Asian youth player of the year and is being used as an impact substitute in the senior team. Another one for the future!

Natalie Garcia, 21, defender, Mexico: Long hair, sunny smile, and also the defensive pivot of a Mexican team that is looking to surprise.
Rachel Unitt, 29 years, defender, England: This left sided and left footed defender has twice been England’s player of the year. She plays her club football at Everton.

Saskia Bartusiak, 29 years, defender, Germany: This experienced defender is known as much for her shyness off the field as her crunching tackling on it.

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