Brazilian Women Soccer Players Are The Latest To Protest Inequality
The Brazilian Women’s Soccer Team are the latest female soccer players to publicly show their disgust of their national governing body after the first female coach of the national side was fired, despite support from players.
Emily Lima, a former winger whose playing career took her to Spain, Portugal and Italy before she was forced to hang up her boots when she was just 29 due to a knee injury, became Brazil’s first female coach back in November 2016 and won her first 5 games in charge.
Emily was deemed a ‘pioneer’ by FIFA themselves, after she took the reigns of the team from Oswaldo Fumeiro Alvarez (more commonly known as Vadão), a move which was seen as a huge step forward for women’s football in Brazil.
“As women we have to prove every day that we can fulfil roles that have traditionally been held by men. It’s a cultural and social shift, but the barriers are starting to come down and we’re gradually gaining ground.”
Emily’s coaching started off so well, that the governing body themselves (the same body who sacked her a couple of months later) tweeted what an excellent job she was doing:
— CBF Futebol (@CBF_Futebol) 11 April 2017
Translated as: Great start! With the victory over Bolivia, Emily Lima reached 4 consecutive victories in command of # SeleçãoFeminina. Congratulations!
However, Emily was fired in September, less than a year into the job after a series of losses. Emily’s record as coach finished as 7 wins, 5 losses and 1 draw. Marta, Brazils greatest ever player stated that the players liked Lima’s philosophy of taking on better teams instead of avoiding them until big competitions. And in a social media post, midfielder Fran posted: “All the athletes were satisfied regardless of the bad results. We asked them (the federation) to keep her, but that was not enough.”
Matters continued to escalate when, on the 7th October 2017, in an open letter to the governing body, eight players including Cristiane, Francielle, Sissi, Rosana and Formiga stated that they will no longer play for the national side because of the way they are treated by the men in the decision making positions:
“We, the players, have invested years of our own lives and all of our energy to build this team and this sport to its strength today, yet we, and almost all other Brazilian women, are excluded from the leadership and decision-making for our own team and our own sport.”
Emily Lima – first Female Coach to Brazil Women’s National Team
Open letter from veterans of women’s football addressing current situation in Brazil
“We, the player alumni of the Brazil Women’s National Team (WNT), are greatly saddened and distressed by developments at CBF in women’s football and in our national team, including:
- The poor treatment of women as leaders and players over many years. These are only the most recent examples: coach Emily Lima, despite the support of the players as expressed in a letter to CBF of 19 Sept., was fired abruptly; and five leading players – Cristiane, Rosana, Andreia Rosa Francielle and Maurine – have retired, exhausted from years of disrespect and lack of support.
- The failure of CBF over many years to provide meaningful opportunities to the players to progress into leadership — even when we gained our coaching qualifications, at great expense and with the encouragement of the CBF. We have so far had one former WNT player (Daniela Alves) working with the Brazil WNT set-up, and despite promises, and only Emily Lima has had the chance to take a leadership role in the national team.
- The lack of women in leadership roles in CBF; the absence of any structures within CBF to enable women to take part in the management and governance of football; and the absence of voices from those who have lived the women’s game, in decisions about the women’s game.
- The failure to support and nurture women’s football at all levels of the game, from the grassroots up, in Brazil.
- We, the players, have invested years of our own lives and all of our energy to build this team and this sport to its strength today. Yet we, and almost all other Brazilian women, are excluded from the leadership and decision-making for our own team and our own sport.We call on CBF to bring gender equality reforms to Brazil
Last year FIFA made major reforms, including the compulsory inclusion of women on its Council, and the addition of objectives to promote the development of women’s football and the inclusion of women at all levels of football governance. Members like CBF are obliged to take into account the importance of gender equality in the make-up of their legislative bodies.
CBF still has no women on its governing board. There are almost no women among its Congress and senior management. There are no meaningful pathways for former players to find their way into CBF and help to run their own game.
Over many years we have lived and watched in despair as Brazil’s women were neglected by CBF. The events of the last week — where players’ voices were ignored, and some are now retiring in protest — is the result of a long history of lockout. While some validly choose to remain inside the team and seek change from within, the fact that players have to make such a choice raises bigger issues. It has made us determined to speak out and demand change.
It is time for CBF to overhaul its practices, in line with FIFA’s reforms and principles1.
We are grateful for the opportunity to have played for our beloved country for so long. We will remain thankful for the rest of our lives for the chance to serve our nation and team, and to come so close to realising our dream of being world champions.
Specifically we call on the CBF to:
(1) Abide by international reforms to governance by including women at all levels of decision-making, especially on its Board.
(2) Build an inclusive pathway into the game for the women who have practised the sport all their lives, by:
- a) Creating a Women’s Football Committee within CBF, comprising women’s football experts, that is empowered to build the framework for how women’s football is developed, organised and run in Brazil.
- b) Creating meaningful pathways for women into coaching, administrative and governance roles in CBF.
The actions we are taking now, are motivated by a desire that all of the women and girls that follow in our footsteps are able to achieve more than we did, including on and off the field.”
Other National Team Pay and Equality Disputes
This Brazilian issue follows team USA, Australia and Denmark who have all protested in recent months about the unfair treatment of the women’s teams versus the mens teams.
In March 2015, Australia’s women’s team went on strike in a protest against poorly paid (or lack of pay) players compared to men’s teams. After only receiving $500 in match fees compared to the men receiving $7,500 in the same tournament lead up, the final straw came when female players were not paid anything for 2 months and a strike protest was decided upon. The result of this came in March 2017, when it was decided by the federations that top international players would receive $41,000 a year.
In March 2016, five players on the USA’s women’s team filed a federal complaint about wage disparity as the women’s team were paid on average 40% less than the male team. This despite the fact that the men’s team performance had been mediocre and the women’s teams have won World and Olympic Titles.
In September 2017, the Danish women’s football friendly match was cancelled due to a pay dispute by the team and the federation. Whilst the game was a sell out against the recent European Champions the Netherlands, the problem arose when it was revealed that the Danish team, despite an average of 70 days a year on duty, where not considered employees of the DBU whilst they represent the national team. Instead, they remain contracted with professional clubs and are paid approximately 300 Euros by the DBU per game per tournament. During friendly matches, players are not paid. This current setup represents a problem for players who lack a professional contract: 300 Euros per competitive game is not a living wage. This is still under dispute, despite the men’s team actually offering the women’s team funding for this to be solved.
In October 2017, the Norwegian Football Federation took an incredible decision by becoming the first football federation to pay their male and female players exactly the same…all this without any protest needed! Read more about that story here: theguardian
Speaking to Sports Illustrated, Joachim Walltin—the president of the Norwegian players union said:
“It was the FA’s own idea to do it equally 100 percent, and they asked if we could make it exactly 6 million Norwegian kroner for both,” Walltin told SI.com. “When we asked the men’s team to say if they wanted to contribute to this equality it was quite easy, because they earn so much more in their clubs. That’s their main income. They know the women’s players need [the federation income] more and it will make a difference for them—especially players in the Norwegian women’s league. All of them are studying or working besides football, and it’s no doubt that will affect their performance. This could make them more professional. It makes me proud to see how proud they are.”