It is a picture of a kiss – an everyday human interaction between partners after 90 minutes on the other side. Posted by Football Is Everywhere with the caption “Football is Love, everywhere”, the photo of Damallsvenskan players Anna Tamminen and Rosa Herreros is a great example of a sport known for its inclusiveness.
On 15 April, top-of-the-table Hammarby hosted Växjö in the third game of the Swedish domestic top-flight season. It was the first time Tamminen and Herreros faced each other on the field, a unique situation for the pair but far from uncommon in the women’s game. Tamminen, 28, started in goal for Hammarby, helping her side to a 6-1 win, while Herreros was named on the visitors’ bench but did not feature. After the final whistle and work on the field, the couple greeted each other with this simple moment of affection captured by a waiting photographer.
Related: Harder and Eriksson: ‘After the photo people wrote and said how much they helped us’
Overall, the reaction was largely positive reflecting the game’s receptive nature. The series of rainbow emojis and “love is love” responses below the post show the positive impact visibility can have. However, as is the nature with social media, unfortunately it has also received some negative responses. Questions have been raised about the professionalism and whether the field is the right place for these interactions, especially with teammates on the other side.
What these posters fail to understand is the unique position women’s football holds within sport and society as a whole. In stark contrast to their male counterparts, many players feel comfortable and supported enough to be open about their sexuality. Couples are common and famous throughout the sport, and although they play for the same side more often than not, they are not restricted by the harmful and archaic norms of some fans in the men’s game. Additionally, many of these same couples understand the power of their platform to try to address the significant inequality faced by LGBTQIA+ people, speaking openly about their relationships.
Many times photographers have discovered such interactions between players. One of them went viral when Australian captain Sam Kerr and American Kristie Mewis were pictured in eye-catching outfits on the pitch at the Tokyo Olympics. The US had just beaten Kerr’s side in a seven-goal thriller to clinch bronze and Mewis was comforting his girlfriend, a private exchange alongside the public setting.
Another image that took the internet by storm was the kiss between Pernille Harder and Magdalena Eriksson after Sweden eliminated Canada from the 2019 World Cup. With Denmark absent from the tournament, Harder, decked out in a Sweden shirt, attended to supporting her longtime partner on her journey to a bronze medal. It has become iconic in the sport and two Chelsea players consciously speak out for equality and their community.
The important thing, however, is that none of these should be seen as anything more than innately human reactions. Throughout sports, the emotions and interactions of athletes are photographed, in victory and defeat and regardless of sexuality. It doesn’t matter if it’s brothers Jason and Travis Kelce after facing each other in this year’s Super Bowl, Alex Morgan’s daughter playing on the field after international husband or Julie Ertz kissing Zac on the sideline after Winning the 2019 World Cup, these are all memories. a camera that brings the joy of sport to life. Celebrate the athlete and everyone around them who helped them get to that point.
The photograph of Tamminen and Herreros was not on this celebrated scale. In contrast, it was a normal situation, a couple returning to each other after a day’s work. But the power of the photograph is significant, and in bringing it to life, it has embodied a sport that has taken on roots and values. A game that has found its own identity and space despite the constant attempts to police it from those on the outside. Men are constantly compared and frustrated, and that side is often seen as the pinnacle of how things should be despite their obvious weakness. Women’s football, however, has the power to create a new vision, despite being in its infancy. It is a prism through which you see a safer and more inclusive sport that can combine both competitiveness and professionalism with inclusiveness, compassion and a sense that football can be a place for everyone. If for 90 minutes on the field, you are competitors; but when the final whistle blows, there can be love, respect, and relationships.
Caroline Graham Hansen’s fourth minute strike against Chelsea was a stand out from the weekend. The Barcelona player strode across the pitch before unleashing an unstoppable finish past Ann-Katrin Berger. This goal from Wave’s Sofia Jacobsson against Angel City is also worth watching.