CULTURE Players seeking change for women's soccer in Latin America

CULTURE

Players seeking change for women's soccer in Latin America

AP

05:46, May 07, 2019

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In this Saturday, March 23, 2019, Macarena Sanchez, a soccer player who is taking legal action against her club and the Argentine soccer association for not recognizing her as a professional player, heads a ball before a mixed soccer match as part of the "I play for equality" event in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo: AP)

For women in many parts of the world, a level playing field in soccer can simply mean having a playable practice field.

Players in Latin America face clear political, cultural and even historical challenges when it comes to soccer and sports overall. Their struggle to close gender gaps is entirely different than that faced by a high-profile squad such as the defending world champion US team and its fight for equitable pay.

But with the approaching Women’s World Cup putting greater focus on their game, Latin American women are increasingly calling attention to their struggles and are starting to see at least incremental results.

Emboldened in part by the actions of the players fighting for equity in the US, Australia and other countries, Isabella Echeverri and Melissa Ortiz started a high-profile social media campaign earlier this year to bring to light some of the issues faced by teammates on the Colombian women’s national team. It gained traction when players from the men’s national team, which went to last year’s World Cup in Russia, declared their support for the effort.

The pair was spurred to action when players stopped getting the $20 a day payment they had received for practice sessions, and other moves by the federation. Separate allegations of sexual harassment on Colombia’s under-17 team later emerged.

“It came to a point when both of us were like, if not us, who, and if not now, when?” Ortiz told The Associated Press.

Players scored a victory of sorts with the recent announcement that the women’s professional league in Colombia would continue, despite talk of its demise. Many of the national team players are part of the pro league, which has not yet begun to play. Colombia went to both the Women’s World Cup in 2015 and the Olympics in 2016 but the team did not make the field for the tournament that opens next month in France.

“We have different fights,” Camila Garcia, co-founder of the women’s player association in Chile and board member for FifPro, the international player’s union, said about women’s soccer in Latin America. “When you see that most of these elite teams have collective-bargaining agreements that we would dream about having, we don’t have any mechanism to negotiate. We can’t be at the table. So we’re trying, for the first step, to raise our voice, to say what we need, and try and figure out how we can develop women’s football.”

Argentina recently announced that its women’s league would be granted professional status. Previously, players for the clubs were considered amateurs, something that’s common globally.


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