Archive for the 'Women’s Soccer' Category

Dec 08 2014

Profile Image of Joshua Nadel

Marimachos*: On Women’s Football in Latin America

Filed under FIFA,Women's Soccer

Note: this post first appeared on The Football Scholars Forum. The Forum is hosting a discussion on women’s soccer on Thursday, Dec. 11 at 2 pm. For more information on how to participate via Skype, contact Alex Galaraza at

By Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel

Dr. Brenda Elsey is an associate professor of history at Hofstra University and the author of Citizens and Sportsmen: Fútbol and Politics in Twentieth Century Chile. Follow her on twitter @politicultura. Dr. Joshua Nadel is assistant professor of Latin American and Caribbean history and associate director of the Global Studies Program at North Carolina Central University. His book Fútbol! Why Soccer Matters in Latin America was published in 2014. Follow him on twitter @jhnadel

Not to complain, but it’s not easy to be a feminist and a scholar of sports. On the one hand, many researchers are hostile to feminist scholarship. On the other hand, many feminist scholars express disgust at the mere mention of studying sport, seeing it as an overdetermined site of sexism. Even scholars who have embraced the study of masculinity and recognize the importance of gender often neglect to discuss how it shapes women’s lives. In practice, this has meant that men remain the protagonists of history.

In Latin America, there is a further criticism from our peers. Some argue that feminism is an imperialist imposition, an import that has distracted from the need to analyze economic and political inequalities, despite the fact that gender is a prime determinant of one’s position in both of those hierarchies. It is surprising how otherwise critical and brilliant minds react to this work. Several of the reactions can be grouped and, when taken seriously, reveal important assumptions that need to be overturned. In her excellent post, Jean Williams mentions similar misconceptions. We think it’s worth reflecting on them at length.

The first cluster of responses can be categorized as a “defensive reaction.” Instead of recognizing that the history of women’s sport sheds light on broader histories of the body and gender, a common reaction is to defend the neglect of women in previous studies. This line of argumentation features phrases such as, “it’s a different game altogether,” “women’s football doesn’t have a long history,” or the related, “not that many women play.” These unsubstantiated declarations require the feminist sport scholar to re-hash examples of women’s presence in football since the late nineteenth century. In Argentina, Chile, and Ecuador, women’s teams formed in port cities shortly after the first men’s teams. Scholars too frequently adopt the rhetoric of sportswriters to come to such conclusions.

Another problematic reaction is a discussion of the supposedly inherent inferiority of women athletes. It is problematic, firstly, because it is not a research question posed by historians. In other words, it is a tangential point. Furthermore, the assumption is that because women are less skilled than men, “no one” watches women’s team sports. This response falls flat on at least three counts. Firstly, academics do not study cultural practices only if they are popular. If we did, there would be much less scholarship out there. The inferiority argument assumes that preference is objective and rational, rather than relational. Long ago, Pierre Bourdieu demonstrated that taste is not created in a vacuum. Unfamiliarity and preconceptions shape the way we view women’s sports.

The more writers naturalize difference and taste, the more they support a ridiculous intellectual fallacy. It is easy to think of sports teams that are beloved, though not successful (the Detroit Lions and Chicago Cubs stand as two examples of this), or where truly inferior play is tolerated and televised (low-ranking Premier League teams). The rhetoric that no one cares about women’s sports because they are inferior should be recognized for what it is, a sexist exercise, in which the writer enjoys hero worship of male athletes, while dismissing women’s accomplishments.

Finally, the argument is ahistorical. Not only have women been playing soccer since the 19th century, people (gasp!, men too) have been watching women’s soccer for a long time: roughly 8,000 people showed up to watch two Costa Rican teams play in 1949, while average attendance at the 1971 Women’s World Championship in Mexico hovered around 25,000 per match.The finals saw the Estadio Azteca packed to capacity–over 100,000 people. This in spite of the fact that the Mexican Football Federation threatened professional teams with sanctions if they let the tournament play in their stadiums.

The narrative of inferiority fits conveniently into the narrative of women being uninterested in the sport, which is the story that FIFA and national federations like to tell. In this version of history, women began playing only in the 1980s, and when they did they found a supportive FIFA. This is a particularly cynical version of history, as it ignores successive attempts by soccer institutions across the world to impede the development of women’s soccer. In soccer terms, the English FA was the first to ban women’s soccer, in 1921. There are other well known prohibitions of women’s soccer, including Brazil. In the case of Latin America, where professionalism officially began later than Europe, women’s teams were part of the broader expansion of amateur clubs (see Brenda’s Citizens and Sportsmen). In addition, women took the lead in organizing official fan clubs. Football club statutes always stipulated categories for women, either as participants, or as “madrinas,” or godmothers.

Beyond the official exclusion of women, men have marginalized them, seeking an escape from domestic obligations within football. In the stands, fans insult the masculinity of opposing teams, characterizing them as feminine and questioning their heterosexuality. They have hinged weakness onto femininity, so women players invert one of the basic building blocks of the sport. Thus, female players are viewed as threatening, not only on the pitch and in the clubhouse, but in society more broadly. While Costa Rican women’s clubs gained respect throughout the region by the 1950s, they also prompted congressional hearings about the sports’ threats to public health. Brazil’s ban rested on the same “science”(see Josh’s Futbol!).

National football associations, which liberally use public funds, have neglected women athletes in Latin America. For example, the Argentine Football Association has not provided the thirteen professional women’s clubs with technical support, decent facilities, or publicity. To make matters worse, female coaches are terrified of being accused of improper sexual behavior towards others, and report that their community is on “high alert.” The result is that there is a reluctance to support female leaders. Mexico has had the same coach for the women’s national team since 1998, and he has retained his position after a year in which El Tri lost three times to its main rival, the United States, by a combined score of 15-0. No men’s team coach would survive.

On the eve of the draw of the Women’s World Cup of 2015, there has been even less media interest than four years ago. No television station picked up the Women’s Copa America, the qualifier for the Women’s World Cup, until after the tournament started, even though rights were free. When Argentina failed to qualify for the tournament, none of the major newspapers covered it. Last Tuesday, Ecuador played Trinidad and Tobago for the final spot in the World Cup 2015, but to find any mention of the Ecuadorian women, one has to dig below the headlines: English Premier League rankings or Barcelona players’ debt. On a regional level, despite the failure of the Boca Juniors’ women’s team to reach the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores, the South American club tournament, sportswriters had no comment. Instead, the following day El Gráfico picked up a story that ranked the “hottest” girlfriends and wives of male players.

If we place the blame on ourselves and journalists, it’s because fans are conditioned to care about people they know and to watch the sports they read about. For every writer like Grant Wahl, who has done a great service to women’s soccer by telling the stories of the USWNT and focusing attention on the sport, there are many more who think it’s unimportant. Worse still, many media outlets continue to belittle women athletes by commenting less on athletic prowess than on physical beauty and questioning women athletes about their desire for family life (which are never asked of men). Some, in fact, only discuss women in the context of botineras–wives and girlfriends–and always accompanied by sexualized imagery. And even coaches discuss the potential “benefit” of using “sex“ to market the game. This last link, just to be clear, is to a 2008 article originally published in Soccer Journal, the official publication of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

Radical ways of thinking about women and football are frequently dismissed as impractical, but are worth considering. Title IX, for all of its value, has consecrated segregation in sport. But If sport is indeed an idealized version of the world, why wouldn’t we want that place to be integrated? So we could argue in favor of integrated teams–like mixed doubles in tennis–at least at the Olympic level or as a stand alone event. Also, as Jean Williams and Jennifer Doyle have argued in the British and U.S. context, Latin American women may do better, so long as segregation is the rule, to form independent associations. Finally, we think that masculinity, as traditionally defined in the Americas, needs to be critiqued from the perspective of its harm to women. Allowing stadium violence, forgiving fans for misogynist chants, and ignoring the domestic violence abuses perpetrated by players, encourages homophobia and sexism. Despite its claims to care about women, FIFA showed no qualms about awarding a World Cup to Russia and Qatar, neither of which can claim to adhere to human rights protocols in regard to women or LGBT communities.

The study of sport from a feminist perspective, regardless of the challenges it faces, requires optimism: the study of oppression opens opportunities to explore how it can be overturned. Those who reject studying women’s football ignore strong evidence that athletic activity in young women’s lives improves their health, expands educational opportunities, and lessens their susceptibility to drug addiction and eating disorders. When we care about women’s football, we care first about women. That’s why the constant diminishing of its importance continues a long tradition of sexism.

* marimacho is a term that can be translated as tomboy or butch lesbian, depending on the context. For many years, it was an epithet thrown at women and girls who played soccer in Latin America. While less common than it once was, women’s soccer players still contend with embedded attitudes about sexuality and soccer.

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Nov 08 2014

Profile Image of Joshua Nadel

On the precariousness of women’s soccer in CONCACAF

Under the radar of our sports inundated country, two weeks ago the United States hosted a World Cup qualifying tournament that culminated last Sunday night at PPL Park in Chester, PA. The women’s teams of the United States, Costa Rica, and Mexico all qualified for Canada 2015, while Trinidad and Tobago face Ecuador in a playoff series starting tomorrow. In theory this event showcased the best women’s soccer teams in the region. In reality it brought into sharp relief the resource gap in women’s soccer and highlighted the continuing challenges faced by women’s soccer worldwide. Simply put, while some teams get support from their federations, others receive almost none. Women’s soccer, and support for it, is still in a precarious state. Institutions support it, but many do so grudgingly and under duress.

First, the good: Costa Rica’s fifteen-year investment in women’s and girls’ soccer bore fruit with the team’s first World Cup berth. Mexico, though it has stagnated since World Cup 2011, still receives substantial support from its federation. And the United States…well, the US women’s team is the best funded in the region (even if it suffers in comparison to the resources given to the US men). Not surprisingly, the three teams that receive the most financial support advanced.  Funding means—at a minimum—full time coaches and staff, training camps, and equipment. Most teams in the region fail to provide even these basic needs for their women’s teams.

Indeed, the five other teams in tournament—Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, and Trinidad and Tobago—showed clearly the problems that women’s soccer faces. Guatemala practices only two times per week, in part because the players need to work or study; the team receives no money for stipends. The Haitian team has no funding from the Haitian federation, and has an all-volunteer staff. Trinidad and Tobago also has a volunteer coach—Randy Waldrum, the former Notre Dame women’s coach. His pedigree aside, the Trinidad and Tobago federation has shown little actual interest in the team. When the Women Soca Warriors arrived in Dallas, they had been given $500 to last for a week: from when the team arrived until the tournament began. Waldrum took to Twitter for help, managing to raise nearly $17,000 from a crowd-funding site established by Jen Cooper (including $658 from Haiti, which was returned).

Jamaica too took to social media to fund its team—the Reggae Girlz. But unlike their Caribbean rivals, Jamaica’s campaign was spearheaded by the Jamaican Football Federation and Cedella Marley. Marley, Bob Marley’s daughter and head of the House of Marley enterprises became involved when her son brought home a flyer about the Jamaican women’s team. She initially offered “a donation” to the Reggae Girlz, but the federation had different ideas. It proposed instead that Marley become the face of the team, someone who—in her words— could “get… the word out there about the program, and…bring some sponsors to the table.” For her, the choice was easy: given her belief that “every girl should get the chance to accomplish whatever their dreams are” she said, “I just wanted to give them a chance to represent.” Without intending to, Marley became the Reggae Girlz global ambassador. With the blessing of the federation, Marley quickly put together a fundraising campaign, both inside and outside of Jamaica. Tuffgong Records produced a series of videos to introduce the team, and Marley hired an independent sports marketing firm to create an Indiegogo campaign in the United States. Over all, the team raised about $200,000.

Trinidad and Tobago’s coach Waldrum noted that the crowd funding of women’s soccer shows that “we can all come together in time of need.” And while stories of teams helping each other and “five dollars here, ten dollars there” donations are heart-warming, handouts do little to help the sport in the long run. Indeed, the unconventional and short-term nature of crowd funding could even undercut institutional support for women’s soccer. Financing teams through emergency appeals—much like appeals for humanitarian aid—is neither healthy nor sustainable. Federations cannot adequately budget for coaches and training staff, stipends, meals and housing, if they have no control over the funding stream.

And herein lies the problem for women’s football. While outside support for women’s soccer is great, it should not be necessary. These federations have money, which can be seen in the support and sponsorship for the men’s national team. The Reggae Boyz, the Jamaican men’s team, reportedly received $7.5 million for their failed bid to qualify for Brazil 2014; we did not hear of desperate funding needs from either Haiti or Trinidad and Tobago in the early rounds of men’s CONCACAF qualifying (though Trinidad and Tobago have historical problems with making payments to players and coaches). Federations receive funds from FIFA and from sponsors, and then set priorities and budgets. Up to now, most national federations have opted not to fund women. In fact, many regional member associations provide only the FIFA mandate $37,500 per year for all women’s soccer programs. Only a few—the United States, Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, and (with Cedella Marley’s support) now Jamaica—place res

So what did this tournament show us? In terms of soccer, it showed that the skills gap is closing. But more importantly–and disturbingly–the CONCACAF Women’s Championship reinforced that women’s soccer has a long way to go in the region before it is sustainable. And while in Jamaica Cedella Marley has committed to supporting the Reggae Girlz for the long-term, most women’s soccer teams will have to continue without the backing of national federations. After Trinidad and Tobago’s loss to Mexico, which sent the island nation to a home-and-away playoff series against Ecuador, a journalist asked coach Waldrum how the team would find resources to prepare. His immediate answer was simple: “I don’t know.”


[This post was cross-posted on the occasional blog ¿Opio del pueblo?]

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Dec 15 2013

Profile Image of Morganne Gagne

Moving Forward

A Chat with Sandra Serafini


Last week, my classmate Lauren Oliveri and I had the opportunity to have lunch with Sandra Serafini. I was honestly a bit intimidated to meet the former FIFA referee and PhD neuroscientist. (Who wouldn’t be? Only a superhuman has those types of qualifications!) However, my fears were instantly quelled as we dove into conversation – literally. As we sat down to eat, Serafini recounted bets that she would make with her linesmen while officiating notoriously troublesome men’s teams. Before the game, she would wager a free appetizer on how long into the game the first dive would occur. It had to be a real dive – a cautionable offense – not just a weak tumble. The betting would turn into a Price is Right style competition, with the officials one-upping each other by a second. And when Serafini won (as she most often did), she would pull out her yellow card, and then turn and smirk to her linesmen thinking, “Oh yeah, I’m getting the most expensive app on the menu.” From there, conversation bounced between all aspects of Serafini’s career as an official, a neuroscientist, and a professional referee assignor.

 The Referee

The Canadian native began officiating as a means of paying rent through college. In the process, she amassed around 2,000 games, often doing between 15 and 20 games a week. When I asked Serafini whether she always knew that she wanted to become a FIFA, her answer was simple: becoming a state referee seemed like the next logical step and she never looked back. Serafini continued to climb the soccer ranks and became a national in 2005 and a FIFA a year later in 2006.

Throughout her refereeing career, Serafini traveled around the world, officiating CONCACAF games and other international matches. Many of her fondest memories occurred off the playing field. In Mexico fans asked for autograph; in Holland, she shared post-game beers with Dutch spectators, and in China, she worked with an all-Chinese crew where communication consisted of more charades than English.

While at the international level, Serafini only officiated women’s matches, she worked in men’s leagues domestically. We discussed the challenges of being the female authority on a field of all men, and Serafini found that players and coaches are more willing to test the waters when they see a woman in the yellow uniform. Every new team required Serafini to prove herself as an official and demonstrate her command on the laws of the game. Serafini has a self-proclaimed “strong personality,” and that certainly aided her player and coach management skills. On the field, Serafini had a strict “no screaming” policy. When players would lose control, she would tell them matter-of-factly, “There will be no screaming today. Let’s have an adult conversation.” And Serafini would listen. She smiles as she explained to Lauren and I at lunch, “Maybe they’re full of it, but maybe I’m full of it.” Serafini realizes, like all referees, she is human and capable of making a mistake. In the case that she missed a call, she would do everything in her power to listen to the players’ complaints and blow the whistle on the next one.

Serafini takes the same approach with coaches, especially when she’s placed on the sidelines in between the teams’ benches as a 4th official. When a coach would spout off at the head referee, Serafini approached him calmly and told him, “Whisper anything you want in my ear. I’m your therapist for the game.” Coaches were generally surprised but they took Serafini up on the offer. Serafini recognizes that coaches jobs are dependent on results and every call and no-call counts at the professional level. Coaches face extreme pressure during games, so while she occasionally used humor to defuse tense situations, her main aim was to give them a person who would listen.

The Neuroscientist

Outside of the refereeing world, Serafini works as a PhD neuroscientist at the Duke Hospital, specializing in functional intraoperative and extraoperative mapping for neurosurgical patients [1]. She laughed as she explains that in season, she doesn’t really sleep. Her schedule consists of: waking up around 5 am, going to work, catching up on emails between OR cases, heading home and spending “quality time with the spouse,” then working until 11:30 pm, and repeating it all the next day. Luckily, Serafini currently works in a lab that is understanding of her hectic schedule. Her former lab thought refereeing was “something you could just do on weekends,” so she was forced to leave.

The Changemaker

Although Serafini has given up her whistle, she is still very much a part of the refereeing world as a Women’s Referee Coach and NWSL Assignor of the Professional Referees Organization (PRO). Not only does Serafini assign and coach referees, but she also works to make the path easier for women following in her shoes. In Serafini’s day, all female referees had to pay for their own training out of pocket. Serafini now works with PRO general manager, Peter Walton, to acquire the same benefits for female referees as professional male referees. She has also been working to add guidelines for pregnancy-related time off.

When Peter Walton stepped on board, he openly invited women to all men’s professional leagues. This hasn’t always been the case, and Serafini feels that opportunities for women have waxed and waned at the discretion of the person in charge. Serafini is proud to see that times have changed:

“When I go around to the tournaments or when I bring the officials into the NWSL, I’m able to say if you do the training, get the qualifications and demonstrate the ability, which they are all capable of, they have the same chance as anybody else. It may seem minor, but it’s really big for this country.” [2]

At the conclusion of our lunch, Serafini reiterated that women’s refereeing truly is “moving forward.” In recent years, professional women referees have made significant strides in numbers and level of assignments. Serafini has been a both pioneer and a changemaker in this process, and with her continued involvement in the PRO, I do not expect this forward motion to stop anytime soon.


[1] Sandra Serafini PhD, MA. Duke University School of Medicine.

[2] “PRO and NWSL breathe new life into US female officiating.” Professional Referees Organization.

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Nov 26 2013

Profile Image of Daniel Carp

November Madness? Why NCAA soccer hasn’t caught on

This weekend, Duke students were treated to an early does of madness, and March is still months away.

Taking the pitch at Koskinen Stadium, the Blue Devil women’s soccer team treated the home fans to back-to-back home wins, including a defensive struggle in an upset of second-seeded Florida and a penalty-kick thriller against Arkansas. With the win, Duke advances to the Elite Eight and a road matchup with top-seeded conference foe Virginia Tech and finds itself peaking at the right time for another deep tournament run.

And although the weekend’s action definitely drubbed up some excitement on campus, it got me thinking why the world’s most popular sport hasn’t really found its niche at the college level. Professional football is one of the largest revenue-generating sports in the world, universities across the United States lose money on its soccer programs each and every year, regardless of whether it’s a winless season or a national championship. Just last week, Michael Reitengen wrote about a number of flaws with the game at the college level—the game is too physical, which is exacerbated by rules that allow for free substitutions. But the real source of the sports struggle at the NCAA level has to do with the culture of soccer itself.

Soccer is a sport that prides itself on professionalism, and professionalism only. Unlike American football or basketball, soccer’s feeder system is not the collegiate system, but rather the academy system, which targets the most talented youth from their teens (and often earlier) and develops them into young soccer machines. Players do not pride themselves on where they went to college, because often times they did not attend college. In Europe, if you are talented enough, you will be signed by a professional team regardless of your age. But the United States and Europe have differing perceptions concerning our education systems.

In America, a college degree is now equivalent to what a high school degree was during our parents’ generation—you aren’t going very far if you don’t have one. Education systems in Europe are often much more career-driven, which can at times make secondary education obsolete—there are fewer stigmas associated with not attending college in Europe than there are in the U.S. Additionally, the MLS has not grown to the point where a professional contract at age 18 outweighs the monetary benefits of even a partial college scholarship for four years plus a degree. After all, 99 percent of the NCAA’s athletes end up going pro in something other than sports.

Because of these fundamental differences, caring about the collegiate game is not engrained in the culture of soccer. Although I have watched a number of incredible athletes take the field for NCAA soccer matches and have been thoroughly entertained by the level of play, it is merely an afterthought in the context of such a monstrous sport.

Even an exciting and high-pressure knockout tournament fails to drum up the attention that basketball players do in March. Another difficulty the NCAA has is soccer’s inherent inability to be monetized from a television perspective. Unlike basketball, there are no commercials every four minutes of gametime. The English Premier League only gets television broadcasts because it is driven by its viewership’s demand, and that is something that collegiate soccer lacks.

Just like any other major collegiate sport, there is triumph and heartbreak, compelling storylines and intense rivalries, but for some reason collegiate soccer just hasn’t caught on.

But I can be sure of one thing. I’d bet that last weekend’s game made a few college soccer fans out of the students in the stands. Even if it was the first college soccer game they’d ever seen, the quality of the matches they saw should give them a reason to come back for more.

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Nov 15 2013

Profile Image of Gilda Doria

The Call Up: Old Ladies Club…No Longer

Filed under Women's Soccer

Every soccer girl dreams of getting a call up to the full women’s national team to play alongside legends Christie Rampone, Abby Wambach, Shannon Box, and Hope Solo. Now the opportunity seems not far out of reach for many rising college and NWSL stars. New women’s national team coach, Tom Sermanni, is giving younger players a chance.


Historically, the women’s national team has consisted of a core group of veteran players who have meshed together over the years into a team that some believe to be unbreakable. Their elite fitness, camaraderie, and veteran experience have established them as the best team in the world. Veterans cannot remain veterans forever though. Shannon Box, a three-time World Cup veteran and three-time Olympic gold medalist, is on maternity leave, but homes to return soon. Center back, Christie Rampone, is still with the squad after giving birth to three children. She has made 287 career appearances with the national team becoming the most active capped player in the world.

These two players are notably the glue that keeps this team together. But as their time remaining on this team begins to narrow, new players must start to make their way into the system to avoid lapses in certain positions.

The recent change in USA coaching staff has made for some angry fans that cannot quite understand a coach tampering with a veteran system. New players are constantly getting an opportunity in international friendlies and camps. Ten players have earned their first international cap this year under the new coach. Included in this list of ten are Amber Brooks (Bayern Munich FC- UNC), Morgan Brian (UVA), Crystal Dunn (UNC), Ashlyn Harris (UNC), Lindsey Horan (PSG France), Julie Johnston (Santa Clara), Kristie Mewis (Seattle Reign- Boston College), Christine Press (Tyreso Sweden), Leigh Ann Robinson (FC Kansas City), and Erika Tymrak (FC Kansas City- UF). All I have to say is: GOODBYE OLD LADIES CLUB.


Meet the future:


Coach Sermanii has put a silence to questioning fans about his latest decisions in an interview with Equalizer Soccer:


“We’ve got a very successful national team, and we’ve got very good players and a very strong squad,” Sermanni said. “So, I’m not in a situation where I’m coming into a job and saying, ‘I need to fill in players here; I need to find players.’ So, I’ve not actively gone out there and said, ‘I need to find players for this team.’


I have not heard many more squeals from those angry fans from earlier in the year. The so-called “tampering” Sermanni did with the squad has led the US Women’s National Team to an undefeated 2013 campaign (13-0-3). The biggest decision he will face will come as World Cup qualifying approaches. How much wiggle room will he have to bring younger and inexperienced players onto the 21-player roster? How much should Sermanni focus on building for the future?

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Nov 12 2013

Profile Image of Tuck Stapor

Battle of the Sexes


If you are looking for big news on American soccer, pay close attention to the summer of 2015.  Very recently, it has been announced that Fox Sports has acquired the television rights to both the 2015 Women’s World Cup as well as the 2015 Men’s Gold Cup.  Not only are these two tournaments during the same year, but they also take place during the same couple of weeks during the 2015 summer.  Obviously, something has to give.  Even though Fox Sports has multiple television stations, there’s no way that the company will be able to show both national teams with the same amount of coverage.  One tournament has to receive the majority of Fox Sports’s time, dedication, and attention.  Which event will take priority?


Clearly, the World Cup is on the biggest stage as it involves international times from every part of the world, while the Gold Cup only involves teams from North and Central America.  However, another difference between the two events is the gender of the players involved.  Unfortunately for women’s sports, they are usually less popular and favorable for fans to watch compared to men’s sports.


Although both the US men’s and women’s national teams have both gained popularity in the past decade, the men’s team has generally been more popular.  This result exists despite the fact that the women’s team made it to the finals in the last World Cup while the men’s team has barely made it out of the group stages.


Despite recent trends in popularity and preference in games played by a particular gender, the US women’s national team, and women’s sports in general, could achieve a “victory” if they are given more airtime than the men’s national team during the next summer.  In my opinion, this result should be extremely possible if not expected.  The combination of the US women’s team being one of the best teams in the world, along with participating in dramatic/exciting games during the last World Cup (see video below).  What also helps boost this possibility is the fact that the team has having some of the best players in the game like Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Sydney Leurox, who also have some of the best personalities and fan relations.  It will be really interesting to see which team will receive the most attention during the 2015 summer.  My prediction: the US women’s national team will overtake the men’s national team  in the news during the year 2015.

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Nov 12 2013

Profile Image of Elena Kim

Sud-Coréenne joueuse de foot, Park Eun-Seon: accusée d’être un homme

En rapport avec notre discussion sur le football féminin sur la scène internationale,  j’ai été choqué de découvrir une situation récente de la discrimination entre les sexes dans le football féminin. Je suis Sud-Coréenne moi-même, et j’avais honte de lire sur les dernières nouvelles au sujet de la Sud-Coréenne joueuse de foot et une attaquante forte pour Seoul City Amazones, Park Eun-Seon, et comment six équipes rivales dans la ligue de foot féminin de la Corée du Sud ont menacé de boycotter la nouvelle saison si Park ne passe pas un test de féminité.


Il est intéressé de noter que ces accusations ont apparu après le grand succès de Park Eun-Seon saison dernière, marquant 19 buts en 22 matchs alors que Seoul City a terminé deuxième. En fait, le manager du club, Seo Jung-ho, a lui défendu en disant que c’était un complot en raison de l’amélioration remarquable de Park après un creux de la vague au cours des dernières années. En outre, à la lumière de ces accusations, Park a reçu beaucoup de soutien dans sa défense.

L’Association Coréenne de Football a publié une déclaration expliquant que Park a passé un test de féminité quand elle avait 15 ans par l’Association Coréenne de Football en 2004, quand elle a été choisie pour l’équipe nationale Coréenne pour les Jeux Olympiques à Athènes. En plus, le secrétaire générale du Conseil sportif de Séoul, Kim Joon-Soo, a annoncé qu’ils n’ont pas l’intention d’accepter le test de féminité juste pour arrêter le boycott. Elle a déclaré, « C’est une violation grave des droits de l’homme qu’elle souffre pour une deuxième fois. La question concernant le sexe de Park ne doit jamais être soulevée à nouveau. La ville de Séoul prendra toutes les mesures nécessaires pour protéger les droits de l’homme de notre joueuse. » Même le maire de Séoul, Park Won-Soon, a twitté : « Comme le père d’une fille, je ferai de mon mieux pour protéger les droits de l’homme de Park Eun-Seon. »


Park Eun-Seon elle-même a répondu et a partagé ses sentiments sur le scandale sur sa page Facebook. Elle a écrit :

Mon cœur se languit et c’est humiliant. Je suis passé déjà des tests de féminités plusieurs fois et j’ai participé à la Coupe de Monde et les Jeux Olympiques. Je sais que ces gens essaient de me détruire… Avant, j’aurais jeté mes mains et quitté, mais j’ai travaillé très dur pour arriver à ce point, et je ne vais pas abandonner facilement.

Lorsque les entraîneurs de ces six équipes s’ont rendu compte que leurs actions ont provoqué un réaction négative du public, ils reculèrent en disant qu’ils voulaient juste savoir comment un bon joueuse comme Park n’a pas joué en équipe national depuis dans les dernières années. Pourtant, cette excuse peu convaincante a été encore plus honteuse que leurs accusations initiales.

Malheureusement, ce n’est pas la première fois dans les sports où l’accusation de sexe s’est produite. Par exemple, en 2009, des accusations apparaissent questionnement le sexe de Caster Semenya, une athlète Olympique d’athlétisme. En outre, ce scandale semble refléter le caractère trop compétitif de la société Coréenne, où les gens sont déterminés à gagner par tous les moyens.

Un côté positif de cette situation est peut-être que Park a reçu une quantité énorme de soutien des fans et qu’elle jure de se remettre de ce scandale en s’entraînant plus et en obtenant de meilleurs résultats.



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Nov 06 2013

Profile Image of Laurent Dubois

Carla Overbeck and the 99ers

Filed under Women's Soccer

Next week in our Soccer Politics class we will have the honor of having Carla Overbeck, the captain of the 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup team, visit our class. She’ll be offering us her perspectives on the broader history of women’s soccer in the U.S. In preparation, we’ll be exploring a range of materials that explore this history.

This recent ESPN documentary called the 99ers provides a riveting recounting of the events of 1999.

This blog includes a range of materials on women’s soccer.

The Soccer Politics page on “Women’s Soccer in the United States” offers a great overview of key moments as well as important issues surrounding the topic.

These two blog guides, produced by two currents students in the class, analyze the ways in which women’s soccer is (or isn’t) dealt with in the blogosphere.

Finally, there have been a series of posts on women’s soccer on this blog by various authors.

These include

A 2010 post by me called “Kicking the Silence” about the lack of media coverage of women’s soccer in the U.S.

A 2012 post by me called “The Hijab on the Pitch” about the debate surrounding whether women should be allowed to play wearing hijab. 

The video below is an extract from a lecture delivered by Jennifer Doyle about the history of women’s soccer on the international stage, called “Marta’s Pink Star.”

As a supplement to this I highly recommend the archive of Jennifer Doyle’s commentary on women’s soccer from her (now defunct) blog From A Left Wing.

We welcome your thoughts and reactions to this material as well as other suggestions.

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Oct 30 2013

Profile Image of Christina Malliris

The Female Pele and the Growing Pains of Women’s Soccer

Filed under Women's Soccer

“The Best Player on Earth is Looking for a Job”, a New York Times headline declared in 2011. The player they referenced was not Messi–he has a nice job, thank you very much, scoring tricksy goals and baffling defenders as a star forward for Barcelona. No, the player they were talking about was Marta Viera de la Silva, Brazilian wunderkind and so famous she goes only by Marta. Five time FIFA player of the year, Marta is almost indisputably the best player in the world today. And yet, at the time of the article, she was technically unemployed.

Ignore for a moment the fact that she returned to Sweden after this article to play for around a 400,000 dollar salary and consider the comparisons to the men’s game: if you are one of the most elite players in the world, income is certainly not an issue. Nor, for the most part (and barring injury) is finding stable employment…because soccer is the world’s game, and all will pay to see it. But apparently, they won’t always pay for women to play it.

Marta grew up playing with the boys in Dois Raichos, Brazil, showing off her equal skills until a scout found her and introduced her to the game of professional women’s soccer–miraculously, he found a team for her in Brazil, seven years after a countrywide ban on women’s soccer. It’s telling when the world’s best player grew up in a country that didn’t even acknowledge her sport. I can guarantee you no male player faced that same kind of discrimination.

And so Marta flourished. Now, an accomplished star, she is known as the female Pele (by Pele himself, no less) and it has been said by many that she could, theoretically, play the men’s game. She’s that good. But her career has been a hodgepodge of bouncing around leagues as they folded from beneath her, unable to stay afloat due to lack of cash and support.

And why should this be? The women’s game may not be as physical as the men’s, but one can hardly say they play with less skill. Women also flop less and for less time, making for a faster paced game with more action. And soccer is the world’s most popular sport. Women’s soccer in particular has exploded across the globe, with 29 million women and girls playing soccer in 2013 according to FIFA. What are the reasons for the women’s struggles in this sport?

In truth, much of the explosion of the game has been in the US and Europe, western countries with more liberal attitudes towards women and sports. Marta mentioned how in Brazil, soccer is still seen as a masculine sport–something that is not the case in the United States. The middle east also struggles with women’s sports. The West Asian Football Federation has been working on an initiative in 2013 to increase the profile of women’s sports in the region, including U-16 and U-19 competitions in the area.

Something, however, we must remember in terms of soccer and women is that soccer itself took decades to reach the level of superstardom it achieved in the mid 20th century and onward. Women’s sports have only had the chance to be mainstream for a fraction of that time. We must also remember that the status of women’s rights in a country directly influences their participation in sports, and there are a lot of places in the world where the term women’s sports is still an oxymoron, for the most part.

It is apparent here that that problem lies in the gender attitudes around the world, and not the sport itself. FIFA president Sepp Blatter caused an uproar in 2004 when he said that women could increase the popularity of their game by wearing “tighter shorts”. Sorry, Sepp, but female soccer players don’t want to be ogled while they play. They want to be admired for their speed, skill, and sportsmanship. While women’s sports always seem to struggle to find a foothold in terms of popularity, women’s soccer has the unique position of being a part of a sport that is popular worldwide instead of concentrated within one nation. And with the unique stardom that players and teams (like Marta) are experiencing, they are in a good position to move forward. Soccer has been used to effect social change before, and it has resisted the effects of some of the most heavy handed leaders in the world. With the explosion of players in the world in the past few decades, the next feat is to get women like Marta to keep fighting for their sport in their country and support the development of women’s soccer from the ground up.

Should this go well, youth leagues can be developed, women can grow up playing the sport, and this will help the women’s league system stabilize. As the skill and thrill of women’s soccer increases, the popularity of the sport will too–one can see this in the drama surrounding the final games in the Women’s World Cup.

Marta wasn’t unemployed when she wasn’t playing. She was a symbol of how talent is being wasted by not giving women the chance to shine on the international stage on a widespread basis. The growing pains of women’s soccer are also the growing pains of women’s rights.


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Sep 25 2013

Profile Image of Becca Fisher

Pele Avec Des Jupes

Filed under Brazil,Women's Soccer


Marta, elle est maintenant assez célèbre qu’il n’est plus nécessaire de l’appeler Marta Vieira da Silva. Elle est considérée comme l’une des meilleures joueuses de foot au monde. Pelé lui-même appelait «Pelé avec des jupes. » Elle a gagné de nombreux prix, dont certains incluent d’être nommé joueur FIFA de l’année cinq fois entre 2006 et 2010. Elle a joué pour de nombreuses équipes comme Vasco de Gama, Umeå IK, Los Angeles Sol, Santos, le FC Gold Pride, Western New York Flash et Tyresö FF. Mais comment est-elle arrivée jusqu’ici?


Elle est née en 1986 à Dois Riachos, en Alagoas, un état du Brésil 1000 miles au nord de Rio de Janeiro. Sa famille était très pauvre quand elle a grandi, mais elle a réussi à trouver le foot à un très jeune âge. Marta a commencé à jouer quand elle avait six ans, tous les jours. Mais, il y avait beaucoup d’obstacles. Sexe est devenu l’un des principaux problèmes. Les garçons ne voulaient pas jouer avec Marta parce qu’elle était une fille et Ils s’inquiétaient à propos de ce que les autres penseraient. Il y avait aussi des opportunités très limitées pour les filles pour jouer au foot au Brésil en raison d’un manque de financement. Heureusement, Helena Pacheco, un entraîneur brésilien, a trouvé Marta quand elle avait 14 ans et l’amené à enseigner à Vasco da Gama, un club de Rio qui a eu un programme pour les femmes. C’est là où elle a commencé à vraiment pratiquer trois ou quatre fois par semaine. Quand elle avait 17 ans, elle a déménagé en Suède pour s’entraîner et jouer tous les jours. Pas mal pour une fille qui a grandi dans Dois Riachos et a joué au foot dans les rues contre les garçons qui avaient peur de lui et l’absence de tout entraînement officiel jusqu’à ce qu’elle ait 14 ans.


Après avoir voyagé à travers le monde avec des équipes différentes, Marta pense très hautement des femmes équipe de football américain. Dans un entretien avec SoccerNation News elle a dit, « les femmes américaines font mieux que les hommes dans le monde du foot à cause des bonnes conditions que les femmes ont en Amérique. Il y a beaucoup de sports en Amérique, le foot est un des sports pour les femmes qui est très importante. » L’Amérique a gagné tant de prix et de concours avec l’équipe nationale, ce qui est donc important de continuer à augmenter le talent dans le pays. Les femmes doivent aussi continuer à jouer dur et développer le sport, qui est quelque chose qui manque au Brésil. « Il n’y a pas une nouvelle génération de floraison au Brésil qui peuvent envisager et avoir l’ambition d’être professionnel. » Il est difficile parce que même si l’équipe nationale brésilienne a gagné deux médailles d’argent et a terminé en deuxième place à la dernière Coupe du Monde, tous ses accomplissements n’ont pas suffi à promouvoir effectivement le jeu professionnel féminin. « Ces trois médailles jusqu’à aujourd’hui étaient inutiles parce que notre réalité n’a pas changé tant que ça. Il y avait des promesses. Il y avait une promesse de commencer une ligue, de faire ceci, de faire cela, mais en réalité, rien n’a été fait et nous sommes toujours en lutte … nous voulons essayer de transporter le nom du Brésil au sommet, mais nous n’avons pas le soutien. » Il est incroyable de voir comment le rôle que jouent les supporters est si grand dans le sport à travers le monde, non seulement pour encourager les joueurs et une équipe en particulier, mais aussi de promouvoir le sport lui-même dans tout le pays. Marta explique que le financement et le parrainage sont très rares. Même si le foot féminin est télévisé normalement aux Etats-Unis, le Brésil est encore en retard.


Avec la majesté des femmes équipe de foot américain par rapport à celle du Brésil, Marta a aussi souligné le rôle important que joue le sexe dans ce sport. Ce que portent les joueuses ne devrait pas être important, mais le football féminin devrait conserver un sens de la féminité. Même si la mentalité que les hommes sont mieux que les femmes ont un peu changé au cours des dernières années, Marta a expliqué à CNN que «il y a encore préjugés qui concerne les femmes non seulement sur le foot féminin, mais dans diverses activités … Les hommes pensent que les femmes sont un peu fragile pour exécuter certains types d’activités ou n’ont pas la capacité et ne sont pas assez forts. » Mais Marta explique que les femmes ont prouvé de nombreuses fois qu’ils sont tout aussi capables. « Le foot au Brésil est considéré comme un sport masculin, même avec beaucoup de gens qui acceptent le sport féminin. Il y a encore pourcentage de gens qui pense comme c’est encore les vieux jours. » Il y a toujours un lien avec l’histoire de ce sport à cause de la familiarité et leurs aspects communs; Il est difficile de changer les mentalités de ceux qui ont toujours considéré le foot comme un sport masculin. En particulier au Brésil, un pays qui est encore en développement tous les jours, les stéréotypes des rôles sexuels sont très éminents.


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