By Andrea Canales
Women's college soccer player Elizabeth Lambert, who plays for New Mexico, is now infamous for a short video clip of her actions in a match versus BYU. The scrappy defender bolted across the lines of fair play by punching opponents and pulling hair. As shocking as her actions were, a question is also raised about the attention garnered and whether a male player would be subject to the same scrutiny.
Goal.com's Andrea Canales presents some varied reaction to the incident by relating a recent conversation with a former junior soccer star.
AC: You saw the Elizabeth Lambert video?
JSS: The chick from NM?
AC: Yep. Do you think she's now the most famous women's soccer player today?
AC: Who else, then? If I said 'Marta' to average Joe sports fan, would he know who I meant?
JSS: I still think more people, in the USA at least, know Heather Mitts. You're only talking active players, I assume? That hair-pulling crap wasn't THAT big of a story. It was big on all the fringe sports sites. I put this thing with the Hope Solo stuff, when she spoke out against her coach. There's a part of us that gives this attention because they're females, sure... but we're holding them accountable for stuff that's wrong, period.
AC: Really? Zinedine Zidane's headbutt was worse than Lambert's hair pull? Why is she off the team, then, when France would gladly take Zizou back if he un-retired?
JSS: Because he's Zidane. Who is she? I bet you she's a dirty player and that her teammates hate her. I used to have a guy on my team who was like that. I hated playing with him. He would piss off the other team, which would result in me getting kicked.
AC: You got kicked because you were good. Freddie Ljungberg is the most fouled player in Major League Soccer and it's not because people hate Tyrone Marshall.
JSS: There are "tactical" fouls and "I'm going to hurt you" fouls.
AC: Granted, if a team sees your teammate playing dirty, they'll have less compunction about trying the same. But Lambert's actions aren't just on sports blogs - I've seen the clips on mainstream shows like Today and other places - and I've never seen anything any USA player did get as much attention.
JSS: It's a "freak" thing. It's like that balloon boy. No one knows Balloon Boy's name.
AC: Falcon. But seriously, I think the Lambert thing is freakish in that she's unknown, but it raises the double standard question again. What is considered the expectation for a female athlete? How does that differ from what society wants from male athletes? Like Serena Williams' meltdown and the reaction to that.
JSS: Hair-pulling is like ball-grabbing. It's gender-specific, granted, but it's universally acknowledged as messed up.
AC: Like spitting on someone?
JSS: Spitting is asexual. You can only pull the hair of a chick, in most cases... and you can only grab the balls of a man. I think there's a novelty factor to hair-pulling, which, of course, you could use as an argument as it being a sexist thing. But at the end of the day, a dirty player is a dirty player is a dirty player.
AC: But if this dirty player were a guy, pulling another guy's ponytail - some Baggio wannabe - would this have gotten so much attention?
JSS: Obviously, no... but if some guy had kicked another guy straight in the balls, yes.
AC: Back in 1997, Mexico's Ramón Ramírez kicked Alexi Lalas in the groin, and I don't think Alexi got anywhere near the sympathy the BYU players have gotten for Lambert's behavior.
JSS: Alexi's thing happened in a totally different era of TV. I really don't think most American sports fans are aware of the hair-puller. If you mention it, they might be like, "Oh yeah, I kind of remember seeing that." If Lambert gets reinstated in three weeks, no one will care. It's not about the punishment. It's the shock over the action. Lambert was outrageously dirty. I don't consider her a soccer player. I'm pretty loose with stuff, but I don't think she should be allowed to play.
AC: But Vinnie Jones? And Roy Keane ended a guy's career.
JSS: I have Jones' "Soccer's Hard Men" video, by the way. Those guys knew how to play... you can't compare.
AC: Vinnie's ball grab of Gazza was the way to play?
JSS: NCAA soccer is already too physical to begin with. If you're a thug in college, it probably means you have zero skill.
AC: That doesn't apply to women's soccer, because most of the best players go to college.
JSS: It's still very physical, though. Keane was actually a good player
AC: I'm sure Alf Inge Haaland is comforted knowing he was crippled by a skilled player.
JSS: If you get caught doing something wrong, you get caught. The referees need to be way more strict. Pull out cards much quicker. The Man U-Chelsea game got out of hand because of that.
AC: Clearly, you don't like to get hit. Did you ever play any defense?
JSS: Of course not. Me? Defense? Defense is for the unskilled. Honestly, yeah, Vinnie Jones shouldn't have been allowed to play... now that I recall some of the highlights in his wonderful video.
Andrea Canales is Chief Editor of Goal.com North America and played as a defender in her youth soccer days.
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