Germany’s first female match commentator, Claudia Neumann, has faced a barrage of insults online after covering men’s World Cup games. National broadcaster ZDF has already filed complaints against two of her detractors.
The complaints were lodged over “extremely derogatory remarks” made against 54-year-old Neumann and ZDF, the channel’s director Thomas Bellut said in a statement. The online behavior of the two individuals in question may constitute “libel and the public provocation to commit a criminal offense,” he elaborated. “Apparently, there are still some viewers who have a problem with a woman commentating on football.”
Neumann, a veteran journalist, has been covering sports for ZDF since the late 90s. She debuted as a live football commentator at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. She later moved on to commentate on men’s games during the 2016 European Championship in France and UEFA Champions League matches – before becoming the first German woman to commentate on games at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Neumann quickly became a target of sexist remarks. Many of her haters complained about her “annoying voice” and suggested that women were unfit to cover football games played by men. Other user voiced their support for Neumann, welcoming the channel’s decision to file suit against her offenders. The channel was forced to take action on social media, deleting most of the offensive and explicit posts directed at the female commentator.
Having been the subject of disparaging remarks in the past, Neumann has vowed to continue her work. “Most of those people weren't even born when I was already sinking bicycle kicks. If it helps to eventually make it easier for a few younger female colleagues – okay. I can take it,” she told the German sports news agency SID. “I've got thick skin.”
Meanwhile, a recent poll published by the Der Spiegel magazine suggests that nearly 70 percent of Germans think it is a “positive” thing that a woman is commentating on World Cup matches. Only 12 percent of responders said the move was “negative,” while around 19 percent were undecided.