In Paris to enjoy the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup. It feels great to be in the field reliving those days of playing. I might be away from playing but soccer is always close to my heart.
The slogan for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ is “Dare to Shine (or “Le Moment de Briller” in French). I thought of penning down my thoughts on what the current scenario for Women’s football is.
The best female footballers from 24 countries are set to take center stage at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, which kicks off in France on Friday. But the build-up to the month-long event has raised concerns about the ongoing fight against unequal pay, gender discrimination, and sexual abuse claims off the field.
More than 1.35 million were in attendance and millions more tuned in to TV for the last Women’s World Cup in Canada. Four years on, interest in women’s football has grown with record crowds and greater media coverage, but disparities in the sport remain.
“There’s been such a lack of investment for all of these years and such a lack of care and attention that doubling, tripling or quadrupling investment, care, attention to the women’s game would be appropriate,” Megan Rapinoe, US women’s team forward and co-captain, said at a pre-tournament press conference in New York.
“Incremental changes are better than none at all, but for the resources and for the ability that FIFA has to implement that change, I think that they are not doing nearly enough,” she added.
FIFA has doubled the total prize money for this year’s World Cup to $30m, with the champions cashing in $4m compared with $2m that the United States received for winning the 2015 edition.
However, with a widening pay gap, the figures dwarf in comparison to the $38m France pocketed from a total prize pool of $400m at the men’s World Cup in Russia last year.
“The development of women’s football needs a kick-start – not a step back – after the women’s game was ignored or even banned by many leading football countries during the 20th century,” FIFPro, the worldwide representative organization for professional footballers said in a statement.
In a first for South African football, its federation, SAFA, announced last month the women’s team competing in its maiden World Cup would receive the same bonus as their male counterparts at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
Sportswear brand Adidas will also reward all athletes on the winning World Cup team with the same performance bonus as their male peers.
Defending and three-time champions the US are spearheading the fight for equal pay and treatment.
In March, all 28 members of the national squad filed a class-action lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation (USSF), accusing the governing body of “institutionalized gender discrimination”, including unequal pay, training, travel and playing conditions compared with their less successful male colleagues.
The USSF countered those claims saying the differences in pay resulted from separate collective bargaining agreements for the two teams and were not based on gender.
Piara Powar, executive director of anti-discriminatory body Fare network, said disparities at either the club or national level are “not justified. For the women to compete equally, they should be paid equally,”
This year’s World Cup will also be played against the backdrop of a series of sexual abuse, scandals, and allegations in a number of countries.
Sexism and harassment at Russia 2018
Last month, Gabon’s authorities announced the opening of an inquiry into alleged ill-treatment and sexual assaults against members of the under-20 national women’s team by their managers.
The head of the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF), Keramuddin Keram, and five other officials were suspended in December following allegations that some Afghan women’s national team players had been molested and physically abused by high-level federation officials.
Since then, more cases – in Canada, Colombia, and Ecuador – have come up with male coaches accused of abusing female players.
Through the backdrop of it, the slogan “Dare to Shine” still goes on to encompass and is a feat to the testament of the strong national heroes from 24 nations who’d be taking on the field, and trying to get the glory and make their nation the world champions.