The state of women’s soccer in America

The state of women’s soccer in America

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 thousand spectators.

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 miedo”

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 wage discrimination.

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 sports.