Episode 112: VAR & PKs, Women's World Cup Activism and an interview with beach volley pro Geena Urango
The whole squad is together again! Jessica, Lindsay, Shireen, Brenda, and Amira dive right into a discussion about VAR (video assisted referee)technology and penalty kicks. [3:02] Jessica interviews pro-beach volleyball player Geena Urango about how she got into the sport, the mental aspect of the game, how you find a partner to play beach volleyball with, and pay equity. [20:27] Then the crew discusses the Women's World Cup and Activism. [31:42]
Of course, you’ll hear the Burn Pile, [43:04] our Bad Ass Woman of the Week, starring the formidable soccer prophet MARTA [56:12] and what is good in our worlds. [57:59]
Timing is everything, and FIFA’s has been awful for the Women’s World Cup: https://equalizersoccer.com/2019/06/20/fifa-womens-world-cup-timing-rules/
Nigeria stage sit-in at WWC over unpaid bonuses: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/amp/football/48736330
Women's rights activist blocked from protesting stadium ban at Spain vs Iran: https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup/world-cup-2018-iran-spain-womens-protest-blocked-a8409221.html
Fifa says it was wrong to remove fans for wearing Iran slogan T-shirts: https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/48674901
Women's Soccer Is a Feminist Issue: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/06/womens-soccer-is-a-feminist-issue/394865/
Lisa Byington And Cat Whitehill Bust Out Lazy Tropes About African Teams For Their Germany-Nigeria Commentary: https://deadspin.com/lisa-byington-and-cat-whitehill-bust-out-lazy-tropes-ab-1835765886
Hannah Green wins KPMG Women's PGA Championship: https://sports.yahoo.com/hannah-green-wins-kpmg-womens-230436884.html
Marta breaks Klose’s World Cup record to send Brazil through with Italy: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/jun/18/italy-brazil-womens-world-cup-report-marta-record
Shireen: Welcome to this week's episode of Burn It All Down. It is the feminist sports podcast you need. I'm Shireen Ahmed, freelance writer and sports activist in Toronto, Canada; and leading the toxic femininity charge this week. We are all reunited on the same continent! And on this week's panel, we have the whole family back together. The fiery, brilliant Dr. Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history and women's gender and sexuality studies at Penn State. Jessica Luther: weightlifter extraordinaire, my favorite PhD candidate, croissant maker, and author of ‘Unsportsmanlike Conduct, College Football and the Politics of Rape’, she's in Austin Texas. Dr. Brenda Elsey. President of the feminist Formiga/Marta/everything Brazilian women's football fan club, undeniable genius, and associate professor of history at Hofstra University in New York. And rounding out this incredible panel, we have the indomitable and brilliant Lindsay Gibbs with the most beautiful laugh and the mightiest pen, who is my best cuddling companion and sports reporter at ThinkProgress in DC.
Lindsay: The more that ... It kept going. You just kept going there with that.
Shireen: I love you. Deal! Before we start I would like to thank our patrons for their generous support, and to remind our new flame throwers about our Patreon Campaign. You pledge a certain amount monthly, as low as $2 and as high as you want to become an official patron of the podcast. In exchange for your monthly contribution, you get access to special rewards. With the price of a latte a month, you can get access to extra segments of the podcast, a monthly newsletter, and an opportunity to record on the burn pile only available to those in our Patreon community.
So far, we have been able to solidify proper funding for editing and transcripts and our social media guru, Shelby. But we were hoping to reach our dream of hiring a producer to help us with the show. Burn It All Down is an intense and wonderful labor of love, and we all believe in this podcast. But having a producer to help us as we grow would be amazing. We are so grateful for your support and happy that our flame throwing community is growing. We have an absolutely kickass show for you this week. We will start with a discussion on the Women's World Cup and specifically VAR and PKs. More on those in a bit.
Jessica interviews pro beach volleyball player, Geena Urango about how she got into the sport, the mental aspect of the game, how you find a partner to play beach volleyball with, and pay equity. And then we'll get into activism and the Women's World Cup. So, as much as we still want to celebrate the Raptors win in this land of wonderful basketball that is the Great White North, we are just going to jump right in.
Jessica, can you start us off please?
Jessica: So, let's talk about VAR because it's been the topic, right? Of the World Cup. VAR for anyone who doesn't know, Video Assistant Referees, so basically checking via all the cameras and the angles and all that stuff from a booth somewhere and helping the ref down on the field. They used it for the first time last year in the Men's World Cup. It's supposed to be for “clear and obvious errors”, I'm sure we'll come back to that little phrase. That's going to be subjective, of course, but that is actually the purpose of VAR. It was approved for the Women's World Cup after a lot of begging. FIFA didn't seem to really want it, the Women's World Cup. But they approved in on March 15th of this year, which meant that there wasn't a lot of time to prep for its inclusion, and I just want to quote from a piece by Jeff Kassouf about issues with how VAR was rolled out.
This was at The Equalizer, quote: “The pool of over 70 referees and assistant referees needed to be trained in the process of using it. They had their training camp in Qatar and got to test out the process and real matches in a boys’ tournament. Players however, weren't afforded the same luxury, no domestic or international women's competition use video review prior to the Women's World Cup. So women's players turned up to France this month having had to prepare for the biggest tournament of their lives, while adjusting on the fly to an entirely new way of officiating.”
So it's like the larger context. And then there's been this specific issue around penalty kicks. And we actually saw it in three different games. I guess I was fortunate. I was definitely fortunate to be there, but I happen to be at all three of them. And I'll explain. So what ended up happening was they changed the rule for the goalkeepers going into the World Cup. And this is the rule that's changed, "The goalkeeper must have at least part of one foot on or in the line with the goal line when the kick is taken, cannot stand behind the line." Pretty basic on paper.
It's always been against the rules for a goalkeeper to come off her line before the ball is kicked for a penalty kick, that's always been true. But what's happened is like now a combination. The fact that they've changed this rule, which they did on June 1, six days before the Women's World Cup started. It has led to an intense scrutiny on where the goalkeepers’ feet are during a penalty kick, and they've used VAR. And so three times in Jamaica vs Italy, Italy was taking the PK. France vs Nigeria, France was taking it. Scotland vs Argentina, Argentina was taking it. They used VAR all three times it was either blocked or missed and VAR said the goalkeeper came off the line too early, they did it again. And all three times the ball went in. And so it's been such an issue that they actually changed the rules mid tournament.
Whatever the group is that oversees this stuff, I cant remember the name now – IFAB, thank you – they were worried going into knockout stages where we've already seen it. Where it can come down to PKs to determine it, right? At the very end they had to say you get a yellow card if you're a goalkeeper and you come off the line too early. They had to say that they will not be doing that, that there will be no yellow card penalty for goalkeepers in the penalty shootouts, which is just in recognition of how much a problem this has become, in a way that they did not anticipate.
And I just can't get over the fact that they implemented this rule six days before the tournament started and expected all these people to be able to follow it. And so, there's been other VAR stuff we can certainly talk about what happened today, Sunday with England and Cameroon and that goal being called back on offsides, there was stuff with Australia and Norway and the knockout round as far as like how they ruled on the handball. VAR has just been an overwhelming issue and it's just taken away so much.
One thing I did want to mention: it takes forever. And I don't know quite where this is coming from, but like in the France-Nigeria game, that PK that they called back and they redid, they ended up with eight minutes of stoppage time at the end of that game and I actually left. I was tired. It was late, it was almost midnight there, and I left the match early when they announced stoppage because I was so tired and I wanted to get out in front of the crowd. But we've seen just incredibly long stoppage periods to make up for the fact of how long this is taking and it just kills the momentum, it drags, it's boring on TV. It's terrible when you're in the stands, it's confusing. So that's where we are with the VAR and PKs.
Brenda: I'm going to have a really unpopular take which is, first of all I agree with everything that Jessica said and all the criticism of the way in which FIFA use this really important tournament as like a guinea pig testing ground. I am so in agreement. And the fact that they didn't have for thought of about the problems that would cause is because they're not thinking about the Women's World Cup as important as it deserves to be thought about. So I'm 100% in agreement with that.
That said, there has been just way too much complaining about VAR, like way too much. If it wasn't there, we'd be super pissed, because there will be so many people with phones and so many replays, and we will be able to see everything the refs got wrong. We will see teams that are favored getting calls over teams that aren't. And we'll see them, because we'll be recording them and replaying them and we’ll be furious. And there is a way in which VAR is an equalizer, there really is. It's just they've done it in all the wrong ways and it's going to take time. The next generation of goalkeepers will stop leaving their line.
They'll simply train differently. They didn't give them the time. They didn't give them the resources and that sucks, and I totally agree. But to suggest that VAR shouldn't be used is absolutely ridiculous. In general, like in the long term, because it's too late. We already have the technology as fans to watch it all and managers will be fired and teams will lose because the average goal differential is going to be one or two. And so it's impossible to think that we're not going to have it when it's just like the technology in the stands is just as advanced. The time has gone from when they first implemented it in 2016. The average VAR stoppage time has gone from 80 to 60 to 40 seconds. What I don't understand is what you point out Jess, why eight minutes for some of the the stoppage times? Because when you look at the actual review, it's not taking that long. So anyway, I know it's very unpopular.
Jessica: I think the France re-kick was like six full minutes.
Brenda: No, right. I'm talking about on a global scale, like FIFA has to report this.
Jessica: Ah, I see. I see.
Brenda: No you're totally right. What I don't understand is like, globally, we know it's gotten faster and faster as people get better at anything. And again, this goes back to being a guinea pig when it definitely, just shouldn't have been. There should have been something that FIFA committed to in 2016. And given this Women's World Cup that years to work on that they knew when this was, it wasn't like they were like, "When is the Women’s World Cup?” Like–
Jessica: They might have been!
Shireen: I don’t doubt that. Amira, your thoughts.
Amira: So Brenda, and I had this conversation. What? Abut two weeks ago, Bren? Early on before there was a like, a lot of kind of public complaint about VAR. And one of the things that strikes me that Brenda just elaborated on now, which is that I think Brenda has like an ideal version of the important impact that can have on the game. And so I just had a question though Bren, is one of the things that I hear you saying is it can be a tool to guard against favoritism, particularly against teams from the global south that have less kind of pull in the European Federations. But one of the things that I've had issue with is like when it is used and what it's not used for, and what is being reviewed and what's being missed still? It seems like they're they're still being decided on the pitch in a kind of haphazard way. So what do you think? It's not just about testing and guinea pigs, there's still people in the equation. So how will technology disrupt some of the longer standing things that we're talking about?
Brenda: Well, in terms of penalties, what's going to have to happen, and all the criticism is very constructive and positive I think in this sense, is there has to be such a clear protocol about when you use it and when you don't. So like handball stuff, right? But what so many people have complained about is goal and PKs. And that's the thing where they're all reviewed. There's no like human decision about when it's reviewed.
Amira: Yeah. And I think I'm particularly thinking about the human decisions about like, can we walk back and look at if we're looking for a possible penalty in the box? And it kind of gets back to that discussion of physicality what is or is not called, but I watched multiple times where there was like, we're reviewing this for a penalty. And then there's still things written down that you cannot review. When there's times where like that could have been a game changing reality, and people are absolutely taken out. But because it wasn't blown, on the pitch, that there's no way to actually use this in a situation that might have been helped by that.
Brenda: Right. I think that that discrimination was in play, always? I think it's always in play and needs to be fought against all the time by analysts and by people who are savvy enough to look at it. But this doesn't make that worse. Because all it would have been is been called a pen without reviewing. So teams from the global South or players of color have always gotten inordinate scrutiny and more penalties. In this case, I think it's not going to be perfect, but certainly it's better because those reps are going to be themselves scrutinized because everyone's going to be watching it.
Shireen: Okay, so here's my thing about VAR is that when it was implemented in like six days and as everyone's reiterated there was enough time for the training, and Brenda well, I hear you say it's going to change the face of how goalkeepers are trained. I have a 17 year old goalkeeper and she's watching this with like absolute irritation. It's actually technically antithetical to the way that goalkeepers are trained to save. Like, I can't even imagine having only one foot allowed like, I’m a striker, I'm not trying to advocate for this, like secret society of goalkeepers. My job is to put the ball in the back of the net as a player. So but I'm thinking from a different perspective, and a lot of the criticism I've heard as well is that VAR decisions favor attackers. They don't favor defenders, they actually do that. And another thing I was going to point out was it can be helpful in certain circumstances.
One of the biggest criticisms of VAR, particularly this tournament, is that it is actually going against the visceral decisions of the officials on the pitch. We are looking to VAR for everything now. And today's match against France and Brazil, the Canadian official, she was very strong, but in the gong show that was Cameroon and England, it wasn't like that. So it was like almost everything was going to VAR or the second third officials were requesting for VAR decisions and whatnot. And that was a point of ire for the team itself that they wanted her to go there because they didn't trust her on field decisions because they didn't have control.
So that's what we're seeing here in some of the complaints. One other thing is that in the middle of this tournament, FIFA has actually made changes to the penalty shootout rule, like in the middle of it, this was released yesterday by the AP. It's so ridiculous. So Brenda, on the one hand, I get it, you want to implement this, but then keep it consistent, don't keep it inconsistent. So suddenly, it's not going to be the same and in regular play, it's going to be with video assistants trying to keep an eye on infringements, or they're called quote unquote, it's happening that GKs are now getting more penalized. And IFAB has granted a temporary dispensation makes them sound like some Sharia court, in my opinion. Well it means goalkeepers, and I'm reading from the AP now, "Can be only booked at the tournament for stepping off the line with both feet during penalty kick in normal time."
So PK during normal time, not extra time, not during PKs. So it's sort of like okay, well this was only going to happen during the 90 minutes and then not in the extra 30 or and the extra time. Then how is this goalkeeper, what are they supposed to magically shift their technique in between those segments? Like this is so ridiculous. Like I don't even need Jihad to come on here and rant which she was very happy to do. But like it's just it doesn't make sense to me. But Linz?
Lindsay: Yeah. Look you've all said more brilliant things than I have on this topic but it's just, someone who watches so many different sports and has seen the way video replay has, come in and impacted all sports. I think that it can be used for good and I like what Brenda is saying about the kind of a data aspect of it and the way it kind of can be used purposefully to help correct some wrongs. But I think the problem is that it's just absolutely ridiculous that this was rolled out so haphazardly. Like, I know I'm repeating it, but it's just because it's worth repeating! Like it's mind boggling. And, I think it was Grant Wall who tweeted something about, "I thought this was going to be a disaster for the 2018 men's World Cup. And it wasn't, but the disaster waited for the Women's World Cup."
And it's like, that's not a coincidence. That's because people didn't prepare anyone properly for this. And I think of the players and how much this now disrupts the pace of the game, and the flow of the game and for goalkeepers how it hasn't second guessing things, and it's just unfair to them to add that wrinkle at this highest level in such a haphazard manner. And it's not the only thing that I think is not lead to teams losing composure, but I think even just beyond the frustration with the calls itself. The way it kept interrupting the flow, or lack thereof, or just the play in that Cameroon-England game, I think is part of why we saw these players getting so frustrated because they're not used to that, like nobody is.
Jessica: Yeah. I think one thing I wanted to mention, since I happen to be at the three games where the PKs were called back after the goalkeeper left the line and VAR showed it. And I tweeted about this, but it was so deflating. Like I don't have a better word for that. But it felt like the air came out of the stadiums in each one. And it's very confusing for the people in the stands when it's all happening because we don't have commentators and stuff like that. Like Lindsay was saying, it totally messes up the pace of the game. That's for real. You could feel that in person. But also when I was watching on TV, once I got home, I was like, this is just crazy boring.
But I don't know how to explain it in any better words just how terrible it felt each time that this happened. And I do think one thing that I find interesting with VAR in soccer, football, versus say, like tennis, where they use it all the time. But there are actually lines in tennis, it’s an in or out kind of thing. There's very much the sort of spirit of the rule versus the law of the rule that soccer is going to have to contend with that VAR like makes really stark. And I think that's really difficult. The offside call on the goal for Cameroon in the game against England today, I mean, you could see it, right? Like, the spirit of the rule was not being broken. It was just a foot. But the people who want to defend it are like, "That's the law, the rule." And it's like that is so complicated and so subjective and I'm just not really sure what they're going to end up doing about that in the end.
Shireen: So as you can tell, we don't have any thoughts on this whatsoever or any opinions. But you know, I think that we're just moving forward we'll see how the rest of the tournament rolls out.
Next up Jessica's interview with Geena Urango.
Jessica: I'm happy to have Geena Urango on Burn It All Down this week. Geena is the only Mexican American beach volleyball player ranked in the top 10. She finished second at the 2008 team San Francisco open and third at the 2018 Hermosa Beach open with Caitlin Ledoux, and has had five finals appearances in her career. Geena won the 2018 AVP Best Server Award. Born and raised in Los Alamitos, California, she's a fitness model and pro beach volleyball player who interned and worked for the AVP in the past and is now playing on the tour. Geena, thank you so much for being on Burn It All Down.
Geena: Thanks for having me.
Jessica: I want to start at the very beginning. How did you get into beach volleyball?
Geena: Let’s see. So I grew up in Los Alamitos, which is obviously close to the coast in southern California. And I actually was a swimmer and I got introduced to beach volleyball, specifically in PE, and I was the only kid that had the kind of the overhead strength from swimming to actually hit the ball over the net. And so I realized I was good at it, and I liked it. And then my parents signed me up for rec ball. And then that led to club volleyball, which obviously living the night, like I said to near Huntington Beach. In the summers, I would just go, my mom would drop me off and I'd play pickup games all day. So I've been playing it since I was probably I think around 11 or 12 years old.
Jessica: Wow. So people just do pick up beach volleyball games? Is that like a real thing?
Geena: Yeah. In Huntington you show up with a ball and you ask people, "Hey, do you need a fourth or do you need another person to play with?" And everyone's pretty friendly down there and very welcoming.
Jessica: I love that. That's so great. But you also did play indoor volleyball?
Geena: Yes. I played club volleyball growing up in high school and then I played indoor volleyball at USC.
Jessica: So why beach volleyball and not indoor volleyball?
Geena: I love both sports. But I've always liked beach volleyball better I think. Part of it because I'm a little bit of a smaller player I'm 5'10"" which is small at the volleyball world and my style of game I think fits beach more. Like indoor is a very power, more specific sport, I'd say and beaches is a lot of like, shots and little more strategy to it. And also just the idea of like being on the beach. That's a great place to be every day.
Jessica: Man, I would have to like take out stock in a sunscreen company or something.
Geena: Trust me, I put on my fair share of zinc.
Jessica: Wow, that segues perfectly. I wanted to ask you, what do you think makes you a particularly good beach volleyball player? Is it like you have a specific skill? Is there a kind of mental toughness that you have? Do you see the court in a certain way? Like, what do you think makes you good?
Geena: I think there's a lot of things I think, like you said, yes the mental toughness of the sport. Granted it's two people, you and your partner, so it's somewhat individualistic but at the same time it is a team dynamic. So I've been working a lot of my mental training the past few seasons, in that aspect, because I know I've struggled in the past to being hard on myself and all of that. But I have been playing a long time and I think experience goes a long way in our sport. You look at some of the top athletes and they're in their mid to late 30s, and they're still playing their best volleyball if not better each year. So I think that speaks a lot. So I think just those two combinations, as well as continuing to set my set goals for myself and keeping myself pushing towards those and further and all that.
Jessica: That's so interesting. Well, you talk a little bit more about working on the mental aspects a bit. It is it that you have to be very forgiving of your mistake? It seems like it would be, but then at the same time you're obviously playing because you're competitive. Is that the mental struggle?
Geena: It is and like in the past, I'd make a hitting error, I'd make a service error and I'd get down on myself. And actually, I've worked closely with Nicole Davis, she is an Olympic libero and she works with Michael Gervais, who's one of the top sports psychologists. And just talking to her and learning from her as far as how to kind of take the emotion out of it a little bit more so and being a little bit more realistic and practical as far as like, "Okay, yes, I missed this serve, but you know, my toss was a little low," etc.
So kind of pinpointing those specifics has helped me kind of shape - it's like your brain is a muscle, and I've kind of trained my brain to think a little bit differently and be a little bit more, I don't know. It's nice, because it's like, yes. I focus on the things that I can control and the things I can always control my attitude, my effort and if I have a positive attitude, and if I'm trying my hardest, regardless of a win or loss, I'll have succeeded. Obviously, the goal is always to win but at least I know like I did the things that I can do.
Jessica: That sounds very smart and good. I wanted to ask about working with a partner, because you mentioned before, it's individualistic, but you do have one and my understanding is that sometimes it's just the two of you like that you actually don't even have a coach. So I'm wondering, how do you know when the chemistry works? Like how do you know that it will work with this person on a two person team?
Geena: It's funny, a lot of us in the beach volleyball world, I feel like we talk about it as if it's a relationship, right? Like if this is your significant other and from a business sport standpoint. And like my partner, Caitlin and I, we played together back in 2013. So like when we got paired up again last summer, we obviously knew we'd already had that chemistry in the past and it was still there.
And we have great communication, we're both pretty calm players on the court. So we have that nice little balance, like we're not getting too high or too low with our emotions. I just thought our style of game is pretty similar and we flow really well on the court. So it's just kind of something that you naturally feel. I've played with, I've tried out with other people, and it hasn't been the same. But I've been pretty lucky to find a partner that I do gel with to that extent.
Jessica: Because I honestly don't know a lot about the pro beach volleyball. I'm one of those people who watch it on the Olympics, right? What is the tour? When does a tour start? How long does it last?
Geena: So the AVP tour starts, our first tournament was the first weekend of May on Huntington Beach. And it goes until towards the end of September in Hawaii.
Jessica: And so if it starts in May, when do you start prepping for it?
Geena: I'd say right after the new year is kind of when teams start to move into it, especially because there is the International Circuit, some teams start earlier. Because there are international tournaments that are a little bit soon before May, but I typically start getting back into it preseason training right around January.
Jessica: And so what is your typical day during the season? Like, how are you working out six hours a day? Like, what does it look like for you?
Geena: I'd say on my busiest day, it's we have practice probably 8 or 8:30 in the morning, so I drive an hour and traffic to Hermosa Beach, where our coach is. And we train for two hours and then probably come home, maybe have a snack and then go do a lift along with some conditioning and then come home and maybe have like a massage or a chiropractic appointment. So I try to get a lot of my stuff kind of done before the mid afternoon and then I kind of obviously I'm so tired by then that all I want to do is just kind of relax.
Jessica: Yeah, no kidding. I do want to ask you about finances and how because we talked about this a lot on the show, when we talk about women's sport, we’re going to talk about it with the Women's World Cup too. Do you have a day job that allows you to play the sport? Or do you make enough as a beach volleyball player? How does that work for you?
Geena: So luckily my parents are really easy to live with. So I've been able to stay at home and continue to train. It's been helpful because the beach volleyball, it can be hard to make a living off of and there are a lot of players that do have to have side jobs to support their goals and dreams of that and I do do some work from home stuff like with digital marketing. So that's helpful because it's really flexible with my training schedule, but there are a lot of people that coach because that works well with their training schedule also. And then also we have sponsorships and so we try to get deals with different companies that can help pay for things or maybe give us product etc. So it's all kind of a little bit of everything that to help us pay for playing.
Jessica: Is there pay equity in your sport. Is that something that is taken up in the sport as an issue?
Geena: It's actually equal pay for the tournament's which is great. And it's great too because we're playing on the same courts at the same time. So people are getting a little bit of everything but yeah it's great that we do have equal pay for both of us, as far as like finishes and the payment for that.
Jessica: Yeah that is great. So what do you actually do then during the off season?
Geena: Off season I love to travel. So I always try to do one big international trip that's not volleyball-related for myself after season.
Jessica: Do you have one planned?
Geena: I'm in the works of planning a New Zealand trip.
Jessica: Wow, okay. And you'll be there in the summer then, for them?
Geena: Yes, yeah. I'll be right at the start of the summer is where I'm looking to do it.
Jessica: Oh, nice. So you can go play beach volleyball in New Zealand.
Jessica: Or maybe not!
Geena: Yeah, offseason…
Jessica: Do you have Olympic aspirations?
Geena: Not as of right now. I think domestically playing on the AVP it's challenging for me and my ultimate goal right now is to win an AVP. And my goals may change and as I attain them or I have a different way of approaching the sport, but for right now I do do some international play, which I know is going to help my domestic play, but ultimately, AVP is my main focus.
Jessica: Interesting. So when you play internationally, where do you end up playing?
Geena: My partner and I actually played a tournament in Cambodia earlier, this preseason. Like right around when preseason was starting. So it was before the AVP started, and we kind of wanted to go, just to kind of see where we were and see what we need to work on. But so that was really cool to go to all the way over there.
Jessica: Yeah. Did they have a big beach volleyball fandom over there? Or is it a new sport? What was the reception like?
Geena: It was funny. The courts were set up in the middle of this parking lot. So we weren't on the coast by any means. But they had a lot of fans and I think that it's kind of popular over there. I know it’s really popular in the Philippines, which is close by. But yeah, it was a pretty unique experience.
Jessica: That's really cool. So tell us a little bit about the rest of the season.
Geena: We have Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach, the end of July and middle August, and then Labor Day weekend in Chicago, and we finished up in Hawaii.
Jessica: Wow, that all sounds really great. And I did see that if anyone is interested in specifics that the full schedule is on avp.com. And last but not least, how can our listeners find you online?
Geena: You can find me on pretty much all social media channels is @Urango, my last name, U-R-A-N-G-O.
Jessica: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for being on Burn It All Down and teaching me a lot about beach volleyball today, Geena.
Geena: Thanks for having me.
Shireen: Lindsay, can you take us to our last segment please?
Lindsay: Yes. So obviously, we like to talk about activism a lot in the Women's World Cup is a great place for that. This week for event progress I wrote a piece, kind of summing up all of the collective action that we've seen from female footballers and lead up to this World Cup, and kind of the thesis of it is.
Women's soccer, women's football isn't progressing because of FIFA or the Federations. It's progressing because women are demanding the investment to make it progress. Women are demanding to be taken seriously. And they're kind of working together and risking a lot in order to get that respect, in order to get that investment, in order to get that support from the federations. And we've already seen some of this activism taking place at the Women's World Cup.
The Nigerian team, I’ll head this to you, but that was, to me the most impactful because in 2016 the Nigerian team protested. They staged a sit in the hotel and the capital to protest not getting wages for winning the Africa Cup of Nations. And now here they are years later after the World Cup, after making it to the round of 16. And when they go home they have to protest they have to stage another sit-in in order to get their wages. So I think for me it's been really inspiring to see these women on the biggest stage continuing to use this platform to demand a better future for women and football.
Shireen: Thanks Lindsay. I'm totally agree with everything you said. The story about Nigeria broke last night and it is appalling to see, the sense of frustration that we're going through this again and it's frustrating. And there's one specific thing that I wanted to mention. This whole idea that football can't be political. And a story that's very close to my heart and always has been is the ban on women in stadiums in Iran. So what ended up happening was there were actually there was a couple who were wearing their shirts that said, "Allow women into stadiums." And the steward at that particular venue had actually asked them to leave.
So it was very very problematic in that they were just sitting silently wearing graphic tees that said, "Let women into stadiums." And it said FIFA on it and the back said, "No forced hijab." Two things that I personally agree with, but that's not the point. The point was the way that it was handled. FIFA did actually come back and say that they didn't handle it well. And they permitted it. They said in retrospect, the message was social, not political, ergo it should have been allowed. But I still feel that that is so ridiculous, and so unfair to every other movement in the world that intricately connects football with politics, with sociopolitics, with geopolitics.
I'm like, they're never going to get it. Like they will never understand. Until Brenda's president of FIFA, they will never actually be proper implementation of how this goes. But anyways, I think this for me was one and we haven't heard very much about open stadiums and access to stadiums in Iran and I would have hoped during this World Cup it would have come out, but that's fine. Whatever. Anyway, so that's just my thing.
Jessica: Yeah, I just think of women's sports is inherently political. I think all sports are but women's sports in particular, because so much of it is a history of exclusion. And so, the history of women's sports is just trying to get a space and we see that right now. So of course, like we're going to see this stuff at the World Cup and I appreciate every single player or team who uses this kind of platform in this way. Because of course I imagine they would all prefer to just show up and be athletes and play soccer and that be it. But that's just not how women's sports works ever. And so of course, it's being the biggest women's sporting event that we have the fact that these things come out here. It's so important and I just appreciate it every single time. Like, I appreciate Ada Hegerberg not being there and forcing us to have a conversation around her. I hope Norway beats England so that we can keep having the conversation around her. All those sorts of things. So, people should just always expect this, anytime there's women's sports.
Shireen: I hope Norway beats England, but for very selfish and different reasons.
Brenda: So it's a consensus that Burn It All Down wants Norway to beat England, right?
Brenda: I think we just settled that after the Cameron game today. I love women's sports more because they are political. So I'd just say that right now. The men are more managed, the men are more constrained by their agents. It's not they wouldn't be. It's not that they don't have things to say or aren't valuable, but they're so often prevented from doing that by so many different interests at work and so many professional layers between them and their fans. And at least in South American women's football/soccer especially, there are less of those. But I just like to say that this is a World Cup that is very much at a crossroads. The dominant team right now is obviously the U.S. so far, they look the best. I'm sorry, coming out of group stages, and they're in a lawsuit. Right? So Nigeria is protesting, Argentina is protesting, and Chile is protesting, you have Marta. I can't really talk about it very much without maybe crying.
Shireen: Here is my hijab for you to cry into.
Brenda: And that's the only thing that might make me feel better, quite honestly. Unless if you cooked me something. So Marta at the end of the game, she doesn't even take a second to think about it before launching right into, "Okay, I've got the cameras. This might be my last World Cup, like I must send the message." Lots of solidarity in this Women's World Cup. I actually don't think that the women's game is anything but a whole lot of solidarity. I know you've seen like clashes and stuff, but these players know each other. Some of them have played for eight and nine clubs. More of them have been with each other and known each other than the men's teams.
So think about the fact that Christiane Endler, and Nicole McClure, Gaby Garton, they all went to the same university. They all went to University of Southern Florida, right? These are people that know each other really deeply and respect each other. But I think it's at a crossroads, right? Which is, how are you going to respond to the continued mistreatment, are you going to continue to have like little piecemeal sponsorships and some walk Nike branding, or are you going to go to Chile route, which is to unionize yourself? I think the latter is really the answer. And I wish that the U.S. women would do it. So I don't want to go on and on, but I think the activism, you need to question what kind of activism is effective.
And just kind of being like, “Oh, I really wish that like, you know, like Adidas would give them more money.” Not the answer, in my opinion. Like you need hardcore structural changes and you need to make people uncomfortable because if you're not making those men uncomfortable, then you're not demanding enough.
Shireen: For sure. Amira?
Amira: Yeah, I agree with Brenda. I just want to say that. But also I want to take a step back too and think about something that often gets overlooked when we talk about women's sporting competitions, but it's always on the table when we're talking about, say the men's World Cup, we talk about the Super Bowl, and we talk about the Olympics, which is what happens when mega sporting events come to town.
And the reason why I want to bring it up is because one of the things that happens as we've talked about on this show before, we’ve talked about a lot is displacement and increased security measures for mega sporting events, etc. But oftentimes as a kind of bedfellow of sexism, the idea that there's less crowds, there's less of security concerns, or there's less, trafficking that happens, etc at the Women's World Cup is, as one security official put it this week, “well, it's not the real event is just the women right? So we don't need much larger security apparatuses.” But with that being said, it's still a mega sporting event. And so there's nothing specific that I wanted to put on the table besides just issuing a reminder, the same way that we're talking about labor issues in Qatar, which are atrocious and people are literally dying building stadiums. The same way we talked about traffic and concerns are increased presence and militarized police officers in spaces around sporting events.
All the kind of behind the scene things that happen to create the infrastructure for mega sporting events are still in operation even though it's the Women's World Cup, whatever.
Jessica: Can I just say that like I saw a lot of semi automatic weapons? When I was in France like that, yeah.
Amira: Right. Exactly.
Shireen: Lots of machine guns.
Jessica: On the police. On the police, yeah.
Amira: They still and as we know, disproportionately are targeting marginalized groups, immigrant groups, Muslims, people of color, black people, like it's dangerous and I think that there's a way that because of all the things that you guys just so eloquently laid out, we don't continue to have that in our focus when we talk about the Women's World Cup. Even right now. There's already talk of the Olympics. There's already talk of the 2020 World Cup, whatever year that is. Yeah. There's already people doing interviews this week, doing articles this week about labor issues about stuff that's happening at those mega sporting events. And I just wanted to put it out there that it's happening on the ground. Just because it's just the women doesn't mean that it's still not a mega sporting event with all of the ills that come with that.
Shireen: Thanks for that Amira. That's really important to remember. And just to add on to what you're saying, Jess was saying, when we were walking around Paris Jess was like saying, "There's the machine guns." Because she knows how I feel about that. And that was sort of like, "Okay." So I just sort of inch closer to her because like, it makes me super nervous. Obviously, one is specifically for all the reasons Amira just laid out, but also because I'm Canadian, it's not something that I see. I'm not saying that all y'all Americans walk around and see machine guns everywhere, but it's very jarring for me personally, to see that. And that it was happening at that event made it more sad for me. And getting back to again, we'll circle the conversation about, what this isn't political? Then why are these people are like walking around with this type of ammunition? Anyways.
Moving on to our favorite segment, the Burn Pile. Jessica, would you like to go first?
Jessica: Yeah, sure this will be quick for me this week. So, I was in France for the group stage in the Women's World Cup and I was bouncing between hotel rooms the entire time as I moved around. I had an Airbnb for a few days when I first got there, that was like the most stable that was because I was going to different games in different cities. And what I want to burn today because I did not anticipate this at all. And so it was really jarring when I was there is how damn hard it was to actually watch the Women's World Cup if I wasn't physically at the game. So if I went to the game, I always saw the game, but then even in the media press room, if another game was on, they had TVs everywhere, you could watch it. I went to with Shireen and Steph Yang to watch one game. It was Canada…Who was it? Canada-Cameron? And then I was also able early in the competition to watch it on my DirectTV Now subscription. But that only lasted a few days, they must have figured out. It was a loophole or something. I was not though able to watch it on regular television in France, unless the French team was playing. And I just was jarred, I just couldn't believe it. When I figured out that I was not able to actually watch the games. Apparently, this is a normal thing in France, just in general for sporting events, according to one friend.
But I just think it's sucks. Like that's it. So my mom lived in Atlanta in 1996. During the Summer Olympics there, I was there during it. And one of the things that I remember really vividly about that experience is that there was extra coverage. You could watch the Olympics 24-7 because we were in Atlanta, and it was this big deal at the time. This was before you had access to every sporting event. It was just basic cable back in the day. And I just remember being so in love with that, like I just watched it the whole time that it was on. I was so taken by it. And so the idea that that was 1996 and like here we are in 2019, the biggest women's sporting event and it's not even on basic TV in the country that's hosting it? Like that sucks no matter the reason. And so I just want to burn that this week.
Lindsay: Yeah, I want to put U.S. soccer on the burn pile right now. Always, but particularly right now. So U.S. Women's National Team taking care of business and France so far, riding high, getting a lot of press and attention. It should be a good moment for U.S. soccer. Now, their lawyers, U.S. women's national teams, lawyers behind the scenes are trying to leverage this. So what they have done is during the group stages, they were pushing US soccer legal reps to agree to mediation right after the World Cup. So they want to settle their equal pay dispute in mediation. I think there's a lot of reasons why they tried to push this to mediation before the group stages, before potential knockout, it's clearly they're trying to put pressure. This is what they want. This is their legal strategy. So what came out at the end of last week was that U.S. soccer had agreed to mediation.
Now the quote from U.S. soccer that was what really got me. This is what U.S. soccer is saying publicly right now. They're saying, "While we welcome the opportunity to mediate, we are disappointed the plaintiff's counsel felt it necessary to share this news publicly during the Women's World Cup and create any possible distraction from the team's focus on the tournament and success on it." So not only are they referring to their national team, that “One nation one team” as the plaintiffs in this statement, which is just infuriating. But they're implying that these women will be at all distracted by this nonsense when clearly they're doing just fine. So just look, U.S. Soccer just knows how to take a good thing and burn it. And so for that we shall throw them on the Burn Pile.
Amira: Yeah. I'm going to continue with the themes I've been talking about since the World Cup started, which is just how damn colonial it is. So we're at the point where I think all the teams from the global South are now out of the competition, but that didn't stop us from getting one last day, chock full of stupid shit people say, their stupid imperialist colonial shit.
And so in particular during the Germany and Nigeria match there was a particular strand of this commentating thing that we have come to unfortunately expect and understand from the game. That is one Cat Whitehill who made the observation that Nigeria was now into the round of 16 by saying, "Somehow Nigeria keeps making it into the World Cup and they're finally with Dennerby," Thomas Dennerby, their coach, "getting a proper coach who can teach them proper tactical and technical aspects to their game. It's exciting for Nigeria. They finally you know, look like the side that can compete." And she complemented this earlier we were talking about how the fact that Dennerby is European, and so therefore he knows how to strategize against a team like Germany, and he's bringing all of his tactical approaches to complement as we've come to now know the quote unquote, “pace and power” of the African team. Can we just stop for a second and think about what these comments are saying? It's like, "Oh, somehow they always gotten into the World Cup." But what they were really lacking was a European coach with all of their knowledge and tactical approach and discipline to calm them down, and one might say “civilize” the team to make them into the next round!
And what you repeated me more is that when numerous people pointed this out, it was not contrite. Of course, it was a doubling down. Of course, it was like, "No race has nothing to do with this. I simply meant he was familiar with the European style of play." Yadda yadda yadda. And it's like, it's scary because people don't even understand how late in their comments are with this racial geographical hierarchy and national hierarchy that's embedded in that and the ways in which and certainly we can get into this when we talk about the way that people were talking about the Cameroonian team. But this is just like an anthropology thing. Every match you hear stuff that your mind is like, "Are we serious right now?"
One BBC commentator before the Cameroon game was like telling stories about how England ‘liberated’ Cameroon from the Germans. Like, it's so colonial it makes me so mad. I don't know what else to do other than burn it down.
Shireen: I'm still so mad about that. But I'm going to take that and I'm actually going to burn mine with that same energy and anger. So you might have heard the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship. I don't know if y'all knew or not, did you hear? And I really actually want to thank Amira and Lindsay for having a beautiful episode to talk about it and show mad respect and love and a little bit of jest.
Anyway, so Canada's president is Masai Ujiri as you know. He's also president of the Toronto Raptors. And while he was in Oakland, and while they were winning, there was an entire case that an Oakland PD officer, this is a whole racist gong show, basically accused Ujiri of hitting him. So the story is sort of inflated to become ‘now this officer has a concussion’ and went on. But initially, what happened was when after they won, and they were celebrating at Oracle Stadium in Oakland, Ujiri was coming down the tunnel. And first of all, you can't be in the tunnel unless you have credentials to be in the tunnel, which not a lot of people do. He was trying to get on the court to celebrate with the team and he was stopped.
Masai Ujiri is one of the only black men in the entire league to hold this type of position. He was stopped by this cop. And there are witnesses that say he was holding his badge in his hand, there was like video of it. And then the officer was like later, it was reported that the officer and Oakland PD reps were like, "No, he didn't have it." But now it's come out today to say that he did have it but it was a wrong one. And he was aggressively showing the credentials. So I don't know how one “aggressively” shows credentials, I'm sure one shows them in a hurry because your team is celebrating, and you want to get on there. But it's just the way the story was spun. And in Canada, people are hella pissed about it, and they should be, this is a moment.
And it's a conversation about race. It's a conversation about black men and power and how they'll always be stopped at every, every, every turn. And Oakland, I'm sorry, I have respect to your team, your basketball team because they put up a great fight, mad respect to that. I have a lot of respect for Steve Kerr and some of the players on that team. And we wish everyone that was injured KD, Klay Thompson, wish them speedy healing, but this is garbage. The Oakland PD is garbage. Wherever there are cops talking about a black man there's going to be garbage and I want torch it. So burn.
Brenda: Hi. I'm going to get very restrained burn, if you can believe it. I have respectful burn, it's almost like a singe. It's almost like a spark. But it's been bothering me since the men's World Cup of last year. And I really do want to burn the argument that somehow teams with large numbers of diasporic players, from the global South, should identify as being from the global South. And this comes from France. And the idea of saying, "Well, there is an African team that has gone past the round of 16." Nope, there's not, there's not an African team that has gone past the round of 16. Colonialism is violent and painful and I love celebrating diverse players oh my gosh. Don't get me wrong. Like yes, please.
Celebrate the fact that some of your best talent is from Tunisia and Congo and Martinique obviously with Renard. But not only just that sort of un-Frenchify the players themselves, but it's incredibly disrespectful. It's not that people are either or or, right?. It's not like, "Oh, well, they're one or the other." And on top of it, ask yourself, why they don't play for Congo? Why don't they play for Tunisia? What would it mean for them to play personally in those FAs that have maybe no chance of getting to the World Cup and no support. So the assumption is they're just going crazy to also be French. It's not the same thing. And so I understand, I do, I understand it comes from a good place. You're saying it positively many of you out there that I love, this is a French-African team or whatever, and so you're trying to separate yourself from the people that identify with just white France. Great, fantastic.
But really all you're doing is lending more and more support to the French idea that somehow France has absorbed these people. Again, going back to everyone else's point, “civilize” these people in a particular way, these populations, and it's not true. They're not entirely French probably, I don't know, ask them. Ask them about it. But certainly you're doing an incredible disservice to people like the Nigerian team who are in different FAs, who live in a place in Africa which has dozens of countries. They don't get to live in Paris. I'm not saying that diasporic populations are not important whatsoever. I just want to make the point. Again, it's a singe. It's a respectful burn, but just to say, please, can we stop justifying the fact that the global South has not gone far in two World Cups out of the round of 16 by claiming that some immigrant populations which are usually treated like dirt by their FAs are somehow making up for that. Burn.
Lindsay: Or singe, as Brenda would say.
Shireen: Moving on to our happy segment, the badass women of the week, let's amplify some really, really, really incredible people. First of all, I want to congratulate and say, I can't wait to hear you, the BBC Africa team of commentators and analysts for the Cup of Nations currently happening in Egypt. We haven't talked much about it because we're totally occupied with women's football and that's okay. But we still want to give props to Janine Anthony, Riham Eldeeb, Sarah Essam and Lynne Wachira, for being the first all-women panel of commentators. We're so excited for you
I want to also say congratulations and recognize Formiga, the Brazilian legend, possibly played her last Women's World Cup match after her seventh appearance at the biggest women's football tournament in the world. Australian golfer Hannah Green won the KPMG women's PGA Championship, her first major championship. Congratulations to you. Ashleigh Barty, who won the Birmingham classic to become the new WTA world number one, supplanting Naomi Osaka.
May I have a drum roll please?
Our badass woman of the week is Marta. She now has 17 World Cup goals, the most ever in history. Her speech today after the match against France was heartwarming, beautiful, we will link it in the show notes. Please read it. I called her one of women's footballs profits. I love her and congratulations Marta.
Moving on to what's good. Jessica.
Jessica: Yeah. So I went to France for two weeks. So that was great. It was a lot of fun. Like, what do you say I got to go to the end of Roland Garros, I saw Barty and Nadal win. I got to go to a bunch of World Cup games, I got to see a lot of friends, including Meg Linehan, and Steph Yang. And then of course, Shireen, who very nicely drove us to Reims and back when we realized that there were no trains that were going to get us there, Shireen didn’t even end up going to the game. She just went with me. So that was very awesome. And then I got to see Brenda and her family and I got to hang out with her girls, Juli and Luna and Maya, and we went to the Paris catacombs which is like the coolest, creepiest thing I've ever seen in my life. It was really fun to share that with Brenda and her girls, have a lot of really wonderful pictures of them down there with a bunch of bones. If you don't know anything about the Paris catacombs, you just have to like look that up.
So that was all amazing. It was just amazing but it also was a long time and I deeply miss my family. And so it was really fun to come home and to be home. And then I just want to mention today, my husband Aaron performed with his band at the School of Rock and he was in the Prince show, so he played guitar and a bunch of Prince songs and he was gorgeous and good. And it was very fun.
Shireen: Awesome. Linds?
Lindsay: Yes, I was not in France. We all know this, but I get to see Amira tomorrow. We're going to watch the U.S.A-Spain game together!
Amira: You may have all seen each other in France but…
Lindsay: I know. We’re going to hold it down. Yes! It's going to be even better. Now we're going to make all of you jealous, ha ha. Yes, that's what's good!
Shireen: That's awesome. Amira?
Amira: Yeah, so that's totally my what's good too, I've going to get to see Lindsay, we're going to watch a game together. It's going to be phenomenal. And I don't even know. I guess my dad's birthday is tomorrow. Happy Birthday daddy.
Shireen: Happy birthday. The Women's World Cup is great. I wanted to say that I've been writing some pieces for SB Nation and Steph Yang is my editor and I love that. It's been really fun for me. I was super super sick when I got back and have been muting my mic throughout this recording to cough, but that's okay. I've been doing a lot of media lately, which might have contributed to that. But I also got to do something very cool. Last Monday was the championship parade in Toronto and I got to go on CBC Radio on a special at first time unprecedented sort of live recording of the parade with Matt Galloway, and later with Reshmi Nair because we ended up going for like four and a half hours. And it was like live commentary and discussion and call-ins, and it was the first time in it ever happened in Canada.
So I was super honored to be part of that, because that was like, broadcast journalism in Canada sports history. So that was pretty great. Last but not least, my youngest son, Mustafa, just made the coolest triceratops helmet thing for an art project. And he was working on it all day with me and he was actually having me help him take the horns on as we were an extra time for Brazil and France. So he was very patient, because I was like, freaking out a little bit. But anyways, it’s the coolest thing. I'm going to put on my own story. Like he's just I love him and art like he's so good. And it was really, really, really, really fun. It's like the coolest thing I've ever seen. So that's that.
Brenda: Okay, well. Definitely the fact that I got to see Jess was a real highlight. So I don't know that was awesome, she told you about the catacombs. That was like my favorite part of the whole trip to France. So that was awesome. Marta’s cover for Vogue, gorgeous, if you haven't seen it that made me happy today. That was the only thing about Brazil's ending today that I felt good about, so sad. And kindergarten graduation! My youngest is graduating from kindergarten, Julieta. And so I expect that to be seriously cute. I mean, come on. It's good. All the kindergarteners are going to look adorable.
Shireen: Please send us a video please.
Brenda: I will. I will and she’s-
Amira: She’ll cry as much as Samari did?
Brenda: She’s leading the pledge of allegiance…
Jessica: She’s very proud, I got to see her practice it at the Catacombs…
Brenda: I’ve tried to get her to like, make the words subversive. So she says, "With liberty and democracy”…
Jessica: She will not do it. She won't do it. She’s a rule-follower.
Brenda: I'm not happy about it, but I have to be. So anyway, that's good.
Amira: Bren, Bren! Get her to kneel while she does it.
Brenda: It's going to be good. It's going to be. I'll kneel for her, but she will die of embarrassment. Anyway, I'm so excited about kindergarten and graduation. It's so cute. So that's cool. So yeah, it's good.
Shireen: That's awesome.
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