WELCOME to another weekly recap of women’s soccer affairs. As usual, quite a lot took place over the week. Although I cannot cover EVERYTHING, here are a few stories to keep you updated on the “woso” (that’s jargon for “women’s soccer” if you didn’t know) world.
The latest FIFA rankings are out and the USA retains top position whilst England moves into third place off the back of a successful SheBelieves Cup campaign, another record attendance was set in Portugal and the South African Football Association has allocated R10 million (about $697,495) towards a professional league.
A little notice before I delve into things: Let’s try out a different style this week. I will simply highlight what’s being going on over the past week and pour out my thoughts on those happenings. I’m going for more lively round-up this week and I’ll appreciate it if you let me know if I’ve succeeded (I just might adopt this style moving forward). Let’s get into it then.
The women’s game has been making huge waves this month and everyone involved in the game – players, coaches, administrators, fans and everyone in between – have been giddy with the strides being made. Women’s football is on the rise and there’s no going back now.
In case you missed it, two weeks ago Barclays revealed it will become the first title sponsor of England’s Women’s Super League, Twitter landed media rights to the Campeonato Brasileiro de Futebol Feminino and 39,000 fans trooped into the Allianz Stadium in Italy to watch Juventus Women take on Fiorentina Women.
The week before that, Nike was unveiled as the exclusive match ball supplier of UEFA’s women’s competitions, CAF announced that 3 of the 29 officials for next month’s men’s U-17 African Cup of Nations are women, the FIFA Council approved the use of Video Assistant Referee’s the upcoming Women’s World Cup and a whopping 60,739 fans watched a league match between Atletico Madrid Women and Barcelona Women.
Indeed, these groundbreaking events have been knocking at the door for quite some time now and to finally see them happen is literally a dream come true. The game has been calling for proper investment from all angles for a long while now and these announcements will surely serve as a door opener for more to follow.
The attendance figures also show quite clearly that there’s enormous interest in women’s football. Yes, these are one-off figures and a far cry from weekly attendances at league games but people do want to watch and “if you build it, they will come”.
Now, on to this week.
A record crowd of 15,204 witnessed a league match in Portugal on Saturday between Sporting CP and SL Benfica which Sporting won by a lone goal. In solidarity with the victims of cyclone Idai that left Mozambique in devastation, proceeds from the game were dedicated to helping the victims. This here is one of the things I love about football and sport in general. Its ability to impact people’s lives in positive ways never ceases to amaze me.
The latest edition of the FIFA Rankings dropped on Friday and there have been quite a few changes. Nigeria moved up a place to 38th, Cameroon remained in place (46th), South Africa dropped one place to 49th and Ghana went down one place to 51st. These countries occupy the first to fourth places on their continent respectively. Moving elsewhere, the USA and Germany retained their 1st and 2nd places respectively whilst England exchanged places with France after their triumph at the SheBelieves Cup and is now 3rd. Japan also edged the Netherlands out of their 7th place, putting them at 8th now. Newly ranked countries include Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan whilst Azerbaijan and Mauritius were not ranked due to prolonged inactivity.
The South African Football Association (SAFA) has allocated R10 million (about $697,495) towards a professional women’s league (finally). The current league setup, sponsored by Sasol, is a semi-professional one. This move to put in place a professional league will go a long way to improve women’s football in the country considering the recent successes of the Sasol-sponsored senior women’s national team Banyana Banyana (retained their regional title, finished second at the African Women’s Cup of Nations and in effect securing a maiden ticket to the Women’s World Cup) in spite of proper structures to nurture talent for the national team. This news is very much welcome, however, we’ll be more satisfied when the league actually walks off the paper onto the ground.
For some months now, the wage gap between men and women footballers has been a hot topic. The United States women’s national team (USWNT) filed a lawsuit against their soccer federation alleging gender discrimination and seeking, among other things, equal pay as their male peers. The outcome of that is still pending. The USWNT’s northern neighbors, Canada women’s national team has agreed to a new compensation deal with Canada Soccer. Running through 2020, this new deal covers payments, performance bonuses, travels, and accommodation. With this sorted and out of the way, the players can focus on their preparations towards the World Cup.
Ending on a dismal note, sexual harassment and abuse are one thing women face at workplaces more often than they should and this threat is no stranger to the world of football. Last year the Guardian broke the news of sexual and physical abuse allegations leveled against Afghanistan FA’s president Keramuuddin Keram and other officials by some members of the country’s women’s national team. Investigations are still ongoing, although by the look of things they might just get away with the alleged crimes.
As a result of the scandal, the players have missed paychecks after sponsors withdrew their support. They have also been put in under a negative spotlight, with parents urging them to give up the sport. Hopefully, these women will get the justice they deserve and be able to do what they love without shame and fear.
That’s it for this week. I leave you with a quote from the great Carli Lloyd: “If I’ve learned anything in my career, it’s that nothing worthwhile in life comes easy. That’s just the way it is”. Have a great week.