The old perception that men's sport is more entertaining than women's sport is dying. If the last few weeks of New Zealand women's football have proved anything, it's that.
The women's Under-17 campaign to the semifinals of their World Cup and the continued dominance of the Football Ferns in the OFC Nations Cup have been riveting to watch, with the former being nothing short of extraordinary.
While men's football in New Zealand has somewhat stagnated, the heart and skill shown by both of our women's teams to progress to their relative stages has captured the eyes of the football faithful irrespective of whether they prefer the men's or women's game.
In light of their recent successes, here are five reasons why you should be supporting the women playing the beautiful game rather than the men.
Now, I understand simply comparing the rank of the men's and women's teams against each other wouldn't be a fair representation of their ability. However, with the Football Ferns sitting at 20th of 147 teams and the All Whites at 122 from 211, we can see that the women have undoubtedly excelled beyond what the men have achieved. While the Ferns were unable to advance from their group in the World Cup in 2015, a win against Fiji in their last game of the Nations Cup will secure them a place in next year's big dance where they will hope to perform to their potential.
2) Regular Fixtures:
As we cross our fingers that the Ferns are able to re-enact their 10-0 drubbing of Fiji today , one reason to support our women is the fact that we get to see them. It's been months since the All Whites have graced our screens and the forecast doesn't look too promising. Despite whispers of a friendly in March next year, no fixtures have been confirmed for the men in white. This comes after numerous calls for more action from our national footballers but it seems only the women are listening. We have been given a smorgasbord of football thanks to these two tournaments and should the Ferns qualify, that will give us three more friendlies in the lead up to the World Cup. Plenty to sate the thirst of local football fanatics and a trend that the men should look to replicate.
3) Homegrown, home-staying.
When I look at the 27-man All White squad and see just six still playing in New Zealand, it doesn't fill me with a lot of hope. There are obvious caveats to this stat, the most obvious being there is a higher quality of football overseas so to improve, a move to a different league makes sense. But when you look at the variety of competitions our men play in across the world, does it not make you think there could be a problem there? Our women are at almost half with nine of 22 playing in New Zealand leagues so not a lot better, but when you have a large section of your squad in regular interaction with each other, you are bound to create more of a bond. Also, with more women playing locally, it increases the likelihood of the squad being able to train as a whole rather than missing a number of key players due to their overseas commitments.
4) Tangible success.
While I remember as clearly as anybody Rory Fallon's header against Bahrain and Shane Smeltz' toe-poke against Italy, these are the few moments a millennial can quote as a golden moment of men's football in New Zealand. However, as we have seen in the U17 World Cup, the women's game does deliver when it comes to success on the world stage. While they missed out on the final, to reach a playoff for third shows incredible strength of character in the team and one that indicates there could be more to come as they progress towards our senior women's side.
5) Phoenix rising from the ashes.
While it's not a reference to the team everyone loves to hate, we all know the clean out New Zealand football has gone through when it comes to the national women's side. The Andreas Heraf saga had every chance of sending New Zealand women's football back five years but that is obviously not the case. With the success from our U17s and the probable qualification from the Ferns, it sends a message that the bad eggs have been purged from the system, letting women's football progress to reach heights hitherto unseen.
It's instances like these which come along every so often to remind us how enthralling women's sport can be, to the extent when they eclipse their male counterparts.
It happens more than people think and more than reporters care to comment on but in this case it boils down to one question.
Do you want to watch international football that features exceptional skill at the top echelon of the game, or keep hitting refresh on the 'upcoming fixtures' tab?