Gender discrimination in sport is visible, especially when female sportswomen cash in thier cheques. Which, simply put, means that they are paid far less than their male counterparts. This discrimination is deep-rooted and permeates to the grassroot level too.
From international governing bodies to local clubs, women’s participation in the administration of sport is negligible and important policy decisions are left in the hands of a few men. Football players have been at the forefront of this struggle to highlight the unequal treatment that women face.
Here are a few leading voices bringing the unfair treatment meted out to women footballers to the centre court.
Hope Solo is best known as the captain of the US team that won the World Cup in 2015. Solo is the most vocal advocate for equal pay and treatment for women in football. Solo was the first player to file a complaint in 2016 with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging wage discrimination by US Soccer.
After the Rio Olympics in 2016, she was omitted from the team following her comments about the Swedish national team. Considered the finest goalkeeper of the game, Solo has transitioned into an activist for equal pay for women in sport after her ouster. She filed a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation in August 2018, alleging discrimintion against Equal Pay Act and Civil Rights Act. She is fighting to change the federation that shunned her. She also contested for the presidential elections of US Soccer but lost to Carlos Cardeiro.
Norwegian footballer Ada Hegerberg won the inaugural Women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018. The 24-year-old striker left the national team in 2017 and has not made an appearance in the team since. Even though the Norwegian federation has an equal pay agreement, Hegerberg feels the treatment is unequal. She reiterates that her decision had nothing to do with money, but with providing girls and women the same opportunities as men.
The four-time Champions League winner believes that national federations and clubs around the world have the responsibility to ensure equality. She now plays for Olympique Lyonnais Feminin in the Women’s French League. She describes the club as having the best model of how to run a modern club and believes that clubs around the world must strive to replicate the same.
Hegerberg told CNN earlier this year "We live in a world where equality is the most important thing. We're in 2019. Women must have their spots...that's why, even though there are changes, that's why you need to push for those changes every single day, never stop demanding equality and development. That's why our position is important. Every player needs to use their voice to shake up things."
Hegerberg says that her parents ensured that their three children - one son and two daughters - were treated equally. Her elder sister Andrine, who plays midfield for Paris Saint Germain, also refuses to play for Norway.
Reggae Girlz (Jamaican women’s football team)
The Jamaican national women’s football team, popularly known as the ‘’Reggae Girlz”, made history in 2019 by becoming the first Caribbean team to make it to the World Cup. Months after their historical appearance, the Jamaican players are in the headlines again. This time, they are fighting the Jamaican Football Federation for not paying them.
Team members, including Khadija (Bunny) Shaw, Toriana Patterson, Allyson Swaby and Lauren Silver took to social media to post a "No Pay No Play" banner that said, "Pay Our Reggae Girlz." The players felt that social media protest is bigger than just about getting paid.
Shaw wrote on Instagram, “This ain’t just about money, it’s about change, change in the way women's football is viewed, especially in Jamaica. We deserve more and they can do better. For this reason, I along with my teammates won’t be participating in any future tournaments until being paid.”
The US Women’s Football Team
Twenty-eight members of the current US national football team are suing the US Soccer federation for gender discrimination. In March this year, the players brought a class action lawsuit against US Soccer, and accused the Federation of "institutionalised gender discrimination”, despite their strong performances.
The women’s team has won back-to-back World Cups and four golds and a silver medal at the Olympics whereas the men’s team failed to qualify for the 2018 men’s World Cup.
“It’s a heavy responsibility, but it’s one that we gladly take on. And it’s something we’re going to keep trying to push and push and push until we feel that everything is equal. That’s far away from here, but that’s what we’re fighting toward,” said defender Becky Sauerbrunn.
(Edited by Rekha Balakrishnan)
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