As the world celebrated female achievements and progress in all facets of society on International Women’s day this past March a new brand of fight has joined the cause of social ills and grievances, this is the fight of women’s soccer or “futbol” in the Americas. Women have been trying to get equal footing in the field of sports but the fight has been more consistent in the sport of soccer. Female players are no longer scared to stand up and demand an equal living wage and fair and safe labour conditions for the sport they love. These latest struggles are coming from Colombia, Argentina and the US.
“Las Chicas Superpoderosas”
as they are known in their native Colombia, considered the best generation of
Colombia’s women soccer who have classified to 2 world cups including the last
in 2015 in Canada have currently taken on their Soccer federation for improved
working conditions and safety from sexual harassment.
They managed to improve
somewhat the opportunity of female players with the very first women’s league
that kicked off in 2017. The first ever professional league of its kind in
Colombia and the finals would be played in front of a record crowd of 30
This past February two of its
international stars who play in the US on scholarships began to open the lid on
the deplorable conditions in which these players have been treated. Melissa
Ortiz and Isabella Echeverri posted a video on social media disclosing all the
unfair treatment, ending their video with the phrase “ya no tenemos miedo” (we
are no longer afraid), derived from their movement slogan “más futbol, menos
which translates to “more futbol less fear”. They reported the Colombian Federation did not cover their plane tickets, their medical expenses and had to be covered out of pocket, their uniforms were old and hand-me-downs and adding to this controversy of labour irregularities and unequal footing the latest accusations have been of sexual misconduct towards players as young as their under-17 teams.
These latest accusations of
sexual harassment have been reported by the teams physiotherapist Carolina Rozo
and some of the under 17 players claiming the last harassments took place during
the preparations for the world Cup in Uruguay this past November. The accused
are coach Didier Luna and their physical trainer Sigifredo Alonso, the district
attorney’s office is now conducting an investigation.
While these women were
standing up to claim their rightful place in sports and demand better and safe
working conditions the Colombian Soccer federation directors tried to silence
them by trying to dissolve the league. They claimed that due to low turnout and
profitability they would then in turn convert the league into a
semi-professional league allowing only players under 23 and also indicating
that players over 25 will never be called up to the national team. The
vice-president Álvaro González even indicated that the women’s major national
team did not need to exist since “FIFA did not consider it mandatory and would
rather concentrate on its younger teams”. This was seen as machismo and with a
tone of reprisal for what the players had denounce.
The Argentinian soccer
players have been fighting for their own dignified equal inclusion in a soccer
driven nation that treats their male counterparts as gods. The Argentinian
Federation has finally agreed and will be announcing that their women’s league
will become professional allowing its players to receive a small salary and
decent training facilities and spaces including locker rooms. Macarena Sanchez
one of its loudest and most dedicated leader said “this is only the beginning”.
While in Los Angeles this
past March on International women’s day the US women’s national team players
also demanded better working conditions and presented a complaint to the US
attorney on the grounds of salary discrimination against the US federation. It
is not the first time they have taken on their federation for better working
conditions and equal pay on the grounds of the equal pay act which prohibits
They have done this before
under the call for “equal play, equal pay” back in 2016 headed by Alex Morgan,
Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, and Becky Sauerbrunn. They filed a
complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission back then with no
positive results or resolution after 3 years.
Megan Rapinoe, co-captain of the USWNT, said “we feel a responsibility not only to stand up for what we know we deserve as athletes, but also for what we know is right – on behalf of our teammates, future teammates, fellow women athletes and women all around the world”.
With the Women’s World Cup
just around the corner these movements and call for an improvement of women’s
soccer will be more visible and in the headlines for months to come. The
movement is real and at the end it is in benefit to all who enjoy and practice