Sweden women footballers endured ‘humiliating’ World Cup genital checks to prove gender

Nilla Fischer

Sweden footballer Nilla Fischer has revealed that players were forced to “show their genitalia [to] the doctor” at the 2011 Women’s World Cup, to prove they were women. 

In her autobiography, I Didn’t Even Say Half Of It, the Linköpings defender recalled the gender examinations carried out during the tournament in Germany.

Conducted by a female physiotherapist on behalf of a doctor, the tests – which followed protests from Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana relating to allegations that the Equatorial Guinea squad included men –  were sick and humiliating, Fischer said. 

Since 2011, when FIFA announced its current gender-recognition policies, teams have been required to sign a declaration guaranteeing that players at World Cups are “of an appropriate gender.” 

Fischer, who played 194 times for her country, wrote: “We were told that we should not shave ‘down there’ in the coming days and that we will show our genitalia for the doctor. 

“No one understands the thing about shaving but we do as we are told and think: ‘How did it get to this?’ Why are we forced to do this now? There has to be other ways to do this. Should we refuse?’

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“At the same time, no one wants to jeopardise the opportunity to play at a World Cup. We just have to get the sh*t done no matter how sick and humiliating it feels.”

In an interview with Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, Fischer said she understood what she needed to do but found the situation “strange”. 

Having retired from international football last year, she went on: “We had a very safe environment in the team, so it was probably the best environment to do it in. But it’s an extremely strange situation and overall not a comfortable way to do it.”

Mats Börjesson, Sweden’s team doctor in 2011, said the examinations took place following demands from world governing body FIFA after rumours circulated about Equatorial Guinea’s team.

FIFA said it has taken note of Fischer’s experiences. 

Trans people’s participation in sport continues to cause contention, with many opposed to their integration and many sporting bodies recently introducing bans on trans women taking part in elite sport.

The backlash to trans athletes has even spilled over into school events. In Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, earlier this month, a nine-year-old cisgender girl was accused of being trans at a sporting event – just because she had short hair.