IF you’re getting weary of all this enlightened and progressive thinking going on around the Women’s World Cup then the British Army has provided an antidote.

Following England’s narrow semi-final defeat our proud forces of the crown sent the following tweet: “Our Lionesses have done us proud, displaying guts and determination against USWNT. It’s not how many times you are knocked down, it’s the way you rise and win next time! Trust us, we know. #DunkirkSpirit.”

For some reason there was also a Piers Morgan hashtag and a photograph of the old aristocratic warmonger, Winston Churchill.

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The tweet would have been more accurate if it had read something like: “It’s not how many times you are knocked down but how many times you can invade small, under-resourced countries and fight against tiny armies or torture unarmed civilians and shoot others in the back secure in the knowledge that you’ll be protected by a cover-up and never have to answer for your crimes.”

A picture of Churchill would certainly have been fitting for sentiments such as those.

Historic competition must be capitalised on

WHEN the Women’s World Cup finally concludes in Paris on Sunday, participants and spectators alike will be entitled to feel that they were present at a truly historic occasion. The crowds, after a sluggish start, began to increase steadily and almost all of the quarter-finals and the semis were played in big-match atmospheres. Most of the teams stepped up to the occasion and closely contested matches which justified their billing.

The England v USA semi-final was the best of the bunch, with the English women producing a skilful and high-energy display against the world’s best ever women’s side. England would have been favourites to lift the trophy if they’d reached the final against Holland.

If these matches are to move beyond the historic to become something that will be described in the future as watershed moments in Scotland and across the UK then governments, sponsors and the game’s overwhelmingly male authorities will have to get serious.

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The US women have already signalled their intention to sue their national soccer federation over the huge pay gap that exists between them and their male counterparts. Norway’s star player Ada Hegerberg went a stage further and walked away from the national team in a protest over equality. The Spanish players also forced the resignation of their male coach who, despite few signs of progress or significant improvement, was allowed to hang on to his position for more than two decades.

Fifa has also appointed its first female secretary general and has pledged around £400 million for women’s football by 2022.

The key to unlocking authentic growth and investment, especially in a country like Scotland, which has been slow to support women’s football, lies in addressing some old and out-of-date attitudes. The most commonly held one also afflicted women’s tennis for many years. This holds that women’s smaller physical stature produces games that simply aren’t as fast and physically challenging.

It’s an attitude that disintegrates if you simply take the women’s game for what it is: women (who make up half the world’s population) playing football to the best of their ability while deploying high levels of skill. As in men’s football, teams and players who are supported by financial investment; sophisticated coaching and training facilities and sports health infrastructures will perform better.

If you were to cling to the concept of women playing an inferior brand of football then none of us would turn up for matches that don’t involve any of the best male teams from Germany, Italy, France or Spain. Lower league sides might as well call it quits in the knowledge that they will never match the best. But the light keeps burning at these clubs because they belong to a community which knows they are doing the best they can in the circumstances and that occasionally they might get to see a future George Best or Jimmy Johnstone in the making. These clubs are accepted and supported for what they are; not for what they might become.

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The skill and fitness levels of male players even just a generation ago were nowhere near that of the millionaire super-athletes of today. Women’s football is still in its infancy in terms of development and support but this World Cup has shown half the planet why the other half has loved it for almost two centuries.

If by this time next year Celtic remain the only senior Scottish football club to have employed full-time women players then it will show, yet again, that the SFA is content to remain a third-world organisation in terms of international football.

This year's final a world removed from the first ever

SUNDAY’S final between the USA and Holland will be a world removed from what is now regarded as the first Women’s World Cup, which took place in Mexico in 1971.

Six nations were represented, including England who sent a group of keen amateurs who had overcome challenges to be there that would have been considered too much for most other players – men and women alike.

England’s squad of 14 included a 13-year-old, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old and were expecting to be well beaten by all of their much more experienced and well-resourced opponents.

The final was won by Denmark who overcame hosts Mexico 3-0, but this England team more than held their own and received great support from local supporters who seemed to be aware of the challenges these English women had overcome just to get there.

We often dismiss Mexico as an under-developed and over-crowded country characterised by backward male macho attitudes. Those who possess such attitudes must never have visited this beautiful country or met a Mexican person. In 1971 the matches at this first Women’s World Cup attracted crowds of 80,000 to 100,000 in a country that is fanatical about men’s football.

Of course the tournament wasn’t recognised by Fifa and the English FA were deeply reluctant to permit the women’s team to wear the fabled Three Lions badge of the national association. The Mexicans though, were happy to appreciate these matches for what they were and wisely resisted the temptation to make comparisons with men’s football. The numbers and media coverage suggest that they liked what they saw.