The Mistreatment of Women in Soccer


On Tuesday, June 30th the United States Women’s National Team will take on Germany in the 2015 World Cup Semi-Finals. It is yet again a great run for the U.S. as they seek another World Cup title, their first since 1999. Yet despite the great run for one of the best teams in the world, there is a greater issue that needs to be brought up about the women’s game, and that is the mistreatment of women in soccer.

Last year the Men’s national team survived the group of death but lost in the round of 16, ending their World Cup with a 1-2-1 (W-L-D) record, yet it was claimed to be America’s coming out party. This year, the women’s team blew through the group of death, which had three of the world’s top ten teams (US-2nd, Sweden-7th, Australia-10th). Yet here we are a year later with a chance to get yet another World Cup trophy added to our country’s trophy case, and it is not being nearly as celebrated. Why? Because it’s women playing.

In 2015 we see that the social push towards equality for all in the United States is a major talking point. From gender, race, to orientation-based rights, there have been major changes in those fields. Yet in sports we are seeing that women are set below their male counterparts. And while most men would say that they are in favor of equality for women, that doesn’t always mean that they want equality in sports. FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who said he is the Godfather of women’s soccer, said in 2004, “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball,” he continued.

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“They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”

Yes that’s right ladies, show those soccer thighs if you want more attention. Yet Blatter would receive nothing in terms of punishment for his comments.

To continue to show that the “Godfather” doesn’t really show interest in his women’s game, in 2013 Alex Morgan was a finalist for the FIFA’s Women’s Player of the Year. While attending the event, Sepp Blatter did not know who she was, as well as confusing Abby Wambach’s now wife, Sarah Huffman, for five-time FIFA’s Woman Player of the Year, Marta. [see article here]

Sepp Blatter isn’t the only man to not respect women. I hear it all the time when watching the game at my traditional spot for US games. The “Oh she’s so hot,” comments or other physique related things. As well as the classic jokes about how these women should be playing in the kitchen, and some even a little more classless. Like, for example, this guy.

Finally, to bring to a close FIFA’s wrongdoings to women, there’s the matches being played currently. This is the first-ever World Cup played on turf. Turf is notoriously bad for soccer, and in the biggest event of the year for FIFA, the governing board has defiantly said that there is nothing wrong with playing on turf. Scott’s Lawn Care even offered to install grass for free! They would willingly give up about $3 million dollars to do it. Yet FIFA refused multiple offers from a couple companies regarding grass fields over turf.

To see the Sydney Leroux interview on the turf issues click here. The full interview is great, but the turf part begins at 2:30.

Now the majority of those who read this probably don’t have the mindset of a 1950’s middle-aged man; I am aware of that. And big props goes to St. Louis for being the city with the largest TV rating so far for the Women’s World Cup with a 4.9 TV rating. That’s amazing considering that the national average has been an 0.8. But even with the ratings, that doesn’t help the way women are treated overall.

Here in St. Louis, we’ve had a women’s professional team as recently as 2009 that was headlined by Hope Solo. The team lasted just two seasons in St. Louis before financial issues caused the team to fold midseason, making each player a free agent.

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Sadly, despite the growth of Major League Soccer (MLS), the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has been a part of a string of leagues for women that have come and gone, though it currently looks like the NWSL will be the top league for the women’s game in the US. Despite that, sadly, the teams are given a salary cap of $265,000 with player’s salaries starting at $6,842-$37,800. Many players have host families or have assistance from their own family and teammates to play. The MLS salary cap is $3.3 million, with the minimum salary at $36,000. So currently the best-paid woman can barely make more than a guy who probably will never play in a game.

Those numbers hold true across the globe. Even previously mentioned Marta, a Brazilian striker, is the top-earning woman in the soccer world but makes about $400,000 with help from sponsors. Most recently, her team, Tyreso FF, folded in the Swedish league, but she was picked up by FC Rosengard of the same league. Even the world’s arguable best player in a year can barely find a secure team to play for, and can barely earn in a year what Wayne Rooney earns in a week, which is £300,000. That’s not including his sponsors.

Look, it’s 2015. There is no place in the United States, or the world for that matter, for such discrepancies between how the men’s games and women’s games are treated. These are the best athletes in their respective sports. And especially on the national level, this divide between genders doesn’t have a leg to stand on anymore. These women represent our country and do so with pride, as the men do. They are the ones with two stars above their crest thanks to the 1999 World Cup victory, which the men don’t have. And right now, they have a chance again to add another title to the United States trophy case, which the men failed to do last year. A true World Champion (unlike most American sports leagues claim…looking at you NFL, MLB, NBA), this is a chance for us as Americans to show some love. Not just by simply switching on the TV when the women’s game is on, but in your everyday life, show support for your fellow Americans as they play for our nation’s pride, as they, hopefully, bring home the title.

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