- Emma Hingant will be covering hosts France at the Women's World Cup
- The journalist & translator referees in the Scottish Women's Premier League
- "I hope France 2019 opens the doors for others that France 1998 did for me"
For the first time at a FIFA Women’s World Cup™, FIFA’s coverage of France 2019 will be spearheaded by 24 Team Digital Content Producers, offering expert insight and exclusive behind-the-scenes content on each of the participating sides.
Between now and the big kick-off, some of these Team Reporters will be sharing their stories and expectations for the upcoming showpiece. Today it's the turn of Emma Hingant, who fell in love with football at France 1998 – and will be following Les Bleues as they bid to emulate Zidane & Co by winning a World Cup on home soil.
Football hasn't always occupied such a huge part of my life.
These days, I am a translator who specialises in football, I work at European tournaments as a reporter, I’ve been at every men's and women's EURO since 2008 and I've covered three UEFA Women's Champions League Finals and the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.
I have also refereed in the Scottish Women's Premier League since hanging up my playing boots. Oh yes, and I also enjoy watching games on TV.
But it wasn’t always this way. Yes, football has always been close to my heart; I loved playing it with my dad in our back garden at home. He taught me how to volley, take corners, defend and keep goal.
When I was eight or nine, I was the only girl playing football (with a tennis ball) at recess in the school yard with the boys. And I was never discriminated against - they knew I was one of them.
But although I used to ask for shin pads and footballs at Christmases and birthdays, I would never confess to this to even my closest friends. A girl playing football in the 80s and the 90s? I certainly hadn't heard of it – even though I was one! I just didn't have any role models to show me I could actually play in a team.
Role models are undoubtedly what little girls the world over need to know that, yes, it is possible. Thankfully, since the 1980s, I've seen a change in mentality: in girls who are playing the game, in the public and in the media.
Take the 2009 UEFA Women's EURO in Finland: I was the only French reporter at France's press conferences. It was Bruno Bini, a player (usually Sandrine Soubeyrand) and me. No-one else. A TV crew did a short news report on the team just before the quarter-final stage, but that's all.
Four years later in Sweden, I already noticed a difference: there were more media and they seemed to be there by choice. There had been a shift in attitudes in the French media after the 2011 World Cup and 2012 Olympic Games, with France reaching the semi-finals in each.
And just last week, at the UEFA Women's Champions League Final, I was in a press conference room so crammed that some journalists had to stand up.
I know that this Women’s World Cup in France will be the biggest yet in terms of media coverage and social media exposure. And for French girls all over the country, it could be a turning point.
Having a World Cup at home is something special. I know that from experience because I still remember France 1998 as one big party. Giant screens had been set up in towns all over the country, and people were truly happy.
As much as I loved a kick-around with my dad, nothing could ever surpass seeing Didier Deschamps, Zinedine Zidane and Marcel Desailly lift that trophy on 12 July 1998. I can only imagine what it could do to a girl in Lille see Amandine Henry do the same, or the impact Wendie Renard could have on another youngster in the Antilles.
France 1998 marked the real beginning of my football life. It was during the tournament that I wrote my very first football news article, for my high school newspaper, about the USA-Yugoslavia match in La Beaujoire, Nantes. After the World Cup was over, I got a season ticket at my home-town Ligue 1 club, then started playing university football when I moved to the USA in 2000. That's where I realised that "soccer" was a women's sport after all!
My passion for the game has continued back in France and everywhere I have since moved for my studies or work: England, Ireland and, most recently, Scotland.
It all started with a home World Cup. To be looking forward to experiencing another this summer, and to be covering the hosts on their journey, well, I can't believe how lucky I am. My only hope now is that, for other girls and women, France 2019 opens the same doors that France 1998 did for me.