Episode 24: Soccer! The NWSL season in review, World Cup qualifiers, and women’s teams in revolt
This week, Brenda Elsey, Shireen Ahmed, Lindsay Gibbs, and Jessica Luther discuss football, or “soccer” as those in the US say. They talk the NWSL season and the bruising final, World Cup qualifiers, and all the women footballers around the world fighting for better treatment and better pay. Then Brenda interviews Brazilian football superstars, Sissi and Tafa!
As always, you’ll hear the Burn Pile, Bad Ass Woman of the Week, and What’s Good in our worlds.
For links and a transcript…
Caitlin Murray at the NYT, “A Blueprint for Women’s Sports Success. But Can It Be Copied?” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/13/sports/soccer/portland-thorns-nwsl.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0
“NWSL minimum salary to double for fifth season” http://www.excellesports.com/news/nwsl-minimum-salary-double-fifth-season/
Christine Sinclair’s post-championship win interview (VIDEO) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=La5mfGRkPho
“World Cup 2018: which teams have made it to Russia and who can still qualify?” https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/oct/11/world-cup-2018-which-teams-have-made-it-to-russia-and-who-can-still-qualify
“Gulati Must Go–And U.S. Soccer Needs a Full Restructuring After World Cup Qualifying Failure” https://www.si.com/soccer/2017/10/11/us-soccer-sunil-gulati-president-usmnt-world-cup-qualifying-failure
“USA Misses World Cup as Doomsday Scenario Plays Out Across CONCACAF” https://www.si.com/soccer/2017/10/10/usa-trinidad-tobago-miss-world-cup
“The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Finally Has a Better Contract, But Not Equal Pay” http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2017/04/05/the_u_s_women_s_soccer_team_finally_has_a_better_contract_but_not_equal.html
“Japan’s female athletes fly economy while men’s team sit in business” (from 2012) https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jul/19/japan-female-atheletes-economy-class
“Australian women’s soccer team boycott sell-out U.S. tour over pay” http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/11/football/australia-matildas-women-soccer-pay/index.html
“Brazil’s Women Soccer Players in Revolt Against Federation” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/06/sports/soccer/brazil-women-soccer.html
“Denmark men’s team offer wages to women after pay dispute” http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/41300291
“Norway FA agrees deal to pay male and female international footballers equally” https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/oct/07/norway-football-pay-male-female-internationals-equally
“North Carolina ruling proves NCAA is useless” https://sports.yahoo.com/north-carolina-ruling-proves-ncaa-useless-162457632.html
“FIFA suspends Pakistan Football Federation” https://tribune.com.pk/story/1528451/pff-suspended-fifa/
“Pakistan football team suspended by Fifa with immediate effect over ‘third party interference'” http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/international/pakistan-football-team-suspended-fifa-political-interference-immediate-effect-world-cup-a7994046.html
“Manchester City to hold talks with FA after worrying response to a serious injury during their Women’s Super League clash with Everton” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-4967878/Man-City-hold-FA-talks-standards-women-s-game.html
“Deyna Castellanos” nominated for FIFA Puskas Award http://www.fifa.com/the-best-fifa-football-awards/puskas-award/video=2908795/index.html
“Esther Staubli to become first woman to officiate a men’s match at U-17 World Cup India” http://www.excellesports.com/news/esther-staubli-fifa-female-referee/
Brenda: Welcome, to this week of Burn it All Down. It may not be the feminist sports podcast you want, but it’s the feminist sports podcast you need.
I’m Brenda Elsey, Associate Professor of History at Hofstra University. And I get to steer the ship today.
Joined by Shireen Ahmed, Freelance Sportswriter in Toronto, Lindsay Gibbs, Sports Writer at Think Progress in D.C., and Jessica Luther, Independent Writer and author of “Unsportsmanlike Conduct, College Football and the Politics of Rape” in Austin, Texas.
Once upon a time, or like, 1980, legendary Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly, was interviewed and the journalist began the question, “Football is a matter of life and death.” To which he interrupted, “It’s much more important than that.”
Today, at Burn it All Down, unless otherwise specified, football means the kind played around the world, also known as soccer in the United States. And this week, we’re gonna talk NWSL Finals, World Cup Qualifiers, the revolt of different women’s national teams and we’ll talk to two legendary Brazilian players, Sissi and Tafa.
1:30 Brenda: Just last night, we’re recording on Sunday, the women’s professional club soccer league, the NWSL in the US and Canada, finished it’s fifth season with a bang up match between the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage.
Lindsay, what are your thoughts on this season?
Lindsay: (Laughs) Well, you took my pun there, bang-up. I must say…
Brenda: Sorry! (Laughs)
Lindsay: (Laughs) Copyright, copyright.
No, so yeah, as Brenda said, that yesterday, Saturday to be specific, since we don’t know when you’re listening to this, so on Saturday, the Portland Thorns beat the North Carolina Courage. One to nothing, in what was a, could say, testy battle.
Lindsey Horan was the game’s MVP, she scored the lone goal of the game for the Thorns.
It was exciting for the league, because the Thorns are by far the most successful team in the league. Attendance-wise is primarily what I’m talking about. They draw an average attendance of 17,653 fans, per game. Which is just phenomenal. It is about triple what the next highest team in the NWSL ever averages on a day to day basis. So there’s a lot of attendance discrepancy in the league. But the Thorns are such a well-run organization, they have the most supportive fans, and they’ve been one of the most talented teams in the league. They won the championship the first year, and now have won it in its fifth year.
To have a women’s pro league, in its fifth year, alone, is a very great accomplishment in the United States. The previous two leagues, both folded after three years. So we’re already in historic territory. It’s time to analyze, to cheer on, to be critical and to kind of figure out where the league is now and where it can go from here.
I would like to know, before we get into the really big picture stuff, just talk about this, pretty ugly match. That we saw yesterday. Shireen, I know you have some thoughts.
Shireen: I have some thoughts, and I will admit I’m an unabashed Thorns fan. Christine Sinclair, who I love and who should be president of the world, is the captain of the Canadian National Women’s team, she’s our hero, we love her. And she even, in her interview afterwards, and we’ll link it to the show, notes actually said, to the interviewer, to the journalist that this might not have been the prettiest game to watch, or the best game to watch.
And yes, CinSi is right. I totally agree with her. This was a very, as Lindsay said, and Brenda alluded to, choppy, rough, I mean, in my opinion, the ref lost control within the first ten minutes, and had to reign to get it back in. And I think it wasn’t necessarily a situation of bad officiating, I just think the game got really out of hand, really quickly, within the first three minutes.
Tobin Heath fouled Smith of the North Carolina Courage, who ended up leaving about six or seven minutes later due to that shoulder injury. And her arm was in a sling, and it was a foul that should have been called. You don’t start calling fouls after fifteen minutes to let people warm up. The whistle blows, the game starts. And I think that set the tone, and again, it happened, Tobin Heath fouled again and she was carded on the second foul, which was pretty intense. So it’s just the game didn’t have the fluidity that we’re used to seeing Portland play with, it didn’t sort of have this dynamic speed up, in terms of the way that it was played. It was not pretty, it was scoreless until the second half, so a scoreless first half, you get pretty excited sometimes. In this case, I was just irritated and anxious. It really wasn’t beautiful…
5:16 Lindsay: Yeah, and another part was the attendance was really poor. It should be said, so one of the things that’s come up the last couple of years, is neutral site finals. And honestly, unless it’s in Portland, it seems like something the league is just not ready for. As I mentioned, the attendance numbers, throughout the league, they’ve stabilized as an average attendance of around five thousand, but is down a couple hundred from where it was last year, I believe.
So there’s a very strong, regular base coming. But it has a long way it needs to do to grow and the official attendance last night, in Orlando, the game was in Orlando, it should be said. The Orlando Pride made the semi-finals this year. They had a great team with Marta, who I know we have some fans up here on the show, Alex Morgan, is a stand up player for the Orlando Pride. Like they always are, wherever they go.
But I think that it was disappointing to me. To see, this was a big deal for the league, that they had it on Lifetime. The beginning of the year there was a historic partnership with Lifetime tv network, so this was the very first year that every week, you knew there was gonna be a NWSL game on tv, you know where it was gonna be broadcast, and you knew what time it was gonna be broadcast. That was really, really exciting and a big deal. Lifetime was an original broadcaster for WNBA, but had been out of broadcasting any type of live sporting events for a couple of decades now, or maybe not that long, but almost. But probably about fifteen, sixteen years. I can’t remember the exact date their partnership with the WNBA ended.
But what Lifetime, because Lifetime is also an equity partner in the league, it’s really exciting so they have, it’s not just this one contract that they can get out of easily, if they don’t like the ratings. They’re invested in seeing the league succeed as a whole. There are some fun things, like Ellen DeGeneres and Julia Roberts were doing promos for this final, like everywhere. Just some cool things to see, like network promoting its women’s soccer, in this way. But the women’s soccer league, it has been very difficult to get the fans from the US Women’s National Team invested in this league. It’s just a very different mentality, the talent is there, the fans are there. I only made it to two games this year, in North Carolina to see the Courage, which was at their first year in North Carolina. And I also went to one Washington Spirit game, unfortunately the games are like an hour outside the city. You can’t get to them without a car, and that is tough.
Shireen: I think that…
Lindsay: It’s just frustrating, to me to see a final, after such a marquee year, with the broadcast partnership with the new equity partnership, to see a final, like we said, it fell flat on the field, but it was also off- the field. The official announced attendance was around eight thousand, but there’s no way there was that many people in the stands. It just, kind of sucked. Shireen?
Shireen: Yeah, particularly on the thing about Portland is has one of the most beautiful soccer cultures I’ve ever seen. Particularly in a North American city. I think that the best, and one of the reasons too is the men and women share the same stadium. It’s not like the women are schlepped off to somewhere else. They use the same training facilities, they make it work with the team, the Timbers. And they work it out, and I think that’s part of what it is. It’s not treating the women’s side as a second class team. It’s giving them their dues, then they have some. I mean Amandine Henry is leaving now, to go back to Lyon, France to play, but I mean she’s a world- class player. She’s one of the…She’s a French National, and my favorite Nadia Nadim, who I love so much, who’s a Danish National, is also going back to Europe. She’ll be joining Man City, in January. But there are some, like you said, Marta, who’s probably the greatest player, and you see this, so much potential.
And I was really disappointed to see those empty chairs in the stands. I mean, I watched the match online, which was another thing I’m really grateful for, NWSL is really good with providing online access, I don’t have tv channels, so if I did, I would definitely get Lifetime.
Hi Lifetime, please sponsor our podcast.
I think that’s sort of a thing too, and it matters to the culture of soccer and how we grow it. So I mean hopefully, there will be lots of full moving forward.
Brenda: One of the questions is about the neutral stadium site, for the finals. And to hold it in Orlando, if Orlando would have been in the finals, I think that those attendance numbers would have been much higher.
And someone suggested, I think it was Katelyn Murray, who wrote this very good piece on the Thorns in the New York Times, that we’ll link to, that if you’re gonna have it, why not just play upon the strengths that you have and have it in Portland?
And I think that’s not a terrible idea, or thought, I think they need to really think about that. I also think that the marketing of the international stars, has been particularly poor.
Kaka’s salary is 6.5 million dollars. Marta’s is 43,000.
Brenda: Before even criticizing anything, I’d just like to shout out the fact that these women do everything, to try to make this league work. And I’m in awe that they get these international stars, who are like, you know what? I’m gonna keep on keeping on.
It is not easy, and you think about those injuries, then you think about that salary, right? But in any case, I think the league could do a better job, personally, of marketing. Marta was seriously underplayed. Having Kaka and Marta, why aren’t they in spots together? Reaching out to the Brazilian community in Miami, Orlando, other parts of Florida.
I hope that it continues, it’s the fifth complete season, it is the longest we’ve had a women’s professional league and I celebrate those women and I appreciate what they’re doing.
10:58 Lindsay: This year, we saw the minimum salary jump for the NWSL, it jumped from 7,200 dollars last year, to 15,000 dollars this year. Which is a significant increase, but that just shows that there’s such a long way to go for a lot of these players.
If they are on national teams, I know the US Women’s national team, there’s a different salary structure for them. But for the players that aren’t on national teams, who make up the bread and butter of what the league is. You need those stars but you also need to fill these rosters with really talented players. You need them to be able to commit to the day in, day out thing. You’re not all gonna be Marta, you’re not all gonna be Alex Morgan, you’re gonna need the rest of the league.
I think they’ve seen some big strides, and I don’t want to, in any way, diminish just the fact that the NWSL is still here and is still thriving. And US soccer has done a good job supporting it. But, there’s a lot more that can be done. The NWSL didn’t have a commissioner all year long, it still doesn’t have a commissioner. Amanda Duffy has kinda been the acting commissioner, but she’s still just the managing director. There’s a lot of questions as far as marketing. And look, I’m hopeful that Lifetime will figure out this marketing thing. But it’s got a long way to go.
Brenda: That’s an excellent point Lindsay, I’m feeling like you should be commissioner.
Lindsey: (Laughs.) My minimum salary is much bigger than 15,000. I would like to say if they want me.
Brenda: I’m sure it’s a volunteer position.
Okay, let’s shift gears a bit.
12:39 Brenda: This week’s World Cup qualifiers were absolutely stunning. There are a few draws left in December and in November, actually, in the African Confederation.
But we now know most of the 32 teams that will participate from the 209 in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
This week, I had a triple screen going. I was sweating, I was yelling. Shireen, I feel like you probably shared a lot of those same feelings. How’d you do this week?
Shireen: My heart is racing, just to talk about this. It’s so exciting, what a week this was.
First of all, I need to start with Egypt, and Mohamed Salah, who should be also co-president with Christine Sinclair of the world. He equalized, and pushed Egypt ahead in the last 3 minutes of a match, and the reactions of fans worldwide, to Egypt qualifying for the World Cup, there was such joy, such tremendous joy, and you see this, and there’s people crying and celebrating in the streets of Cairo. His own twitter feed, and he’s normally quite humble, he was just all No, like we’re gonna celebrate this. And it was a wonderful moment, because I don’t even remember the last time Egypt was in the World Cup. It’s beautiful, and from AFC right now, sorry the AfCon, what we know now is Nigeria will definitely go. Egypt will go. It’s just, it’s been quite a ride and the CAF, the African Confederation’s actually very competitive.
So when Egypt won over Congo, also it says 1990 was the last time Egypt was there, so some kids haven’t’ seen Egypt go to the World Cup in their lifetime. My kids are Canadian born so they haven’t either, but that’s not the point here.
The point is that the Pharaohs, this is incredible. The Pharaohs are amazing and they’ve won the Cup of Nations a couple times. But going to the World Cup is the grand stage, let’s be honest.
Brenda: And the keeper is the oldest keeper in history, right?
Shireen: He’s 41. I believe that..
Brenda: …there’s hope for us Shireen. There’s hope!
Shireen: Gianluigi Buffon will be 41 this year. The Italian keeper, so let’s see what happ…yeah, he goes as well. I’m sure he’s starting. There’s hope for…yeah Brenda. Let’s go to the World Cup.
Tunisia is qualified, is going. It’s important to recognize that we’re still seeing playoffs. So, Africa is last to give their berths. So it’s coming, so we’re gonna see D.R. Congo, they [inaudible 00:15:17] will host Morocco November 11th, we’re seeing in November, between the 10th and the 15th of November, there’s still playoff matches to qualify.
Senegal will face twice against Bafana, and then we’ll see what happens there. There’s a couple more, we know that Brazil is going, Uruguay is going, Argentina is going, Colombia is going, Peru has a playoff match versus New Zealand. That date hasn’t been announced yet, but Honduras versus Australia is November 10th. And then on the 15th.
We know that Russia is going, Belgium is going, Germany, England, Spain, Poland, Serbia, Iceland, France and Portugal that’s from UEFA. There’s still playoff matches to be had between Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Sweden, Republic of Ireland, and Greece.
So completely out of the running from UEFA is Turkey and Holland. So that means that we will not see Arjen Robben or van Persie, which is pretty stunning considering the women’s side won the Euros this year.
Brenda: But it’s totally fine with me, after the way Robben treated Mexico.
Shireen: I don’t like Robben at all, so I’m not crying out…
He actually announced international retirement after they lost, and I don’t care at all.
Brenda: I’m fine with that.
Shireen: We’re good with it.
Brenda: Burn it all down has accepted Robben’s retirement.
So from Concacaf, we’ve got Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, playoff will be, as I mentioned, Honduras.
So out, is the United States. And I know we probably want to chat about this, we’ll segway into that as well. I will mention that Canada has not qualified for the World Cup, sorry, only had one World Cup appearance in 1986, and has not been seen since. So, I’ll talk about all the saltiness from the United States later, and sort of rebut with my own feelings, but just before we move on to that discussion, in terms of the Asian Federation, Iran has qualified, Japan has qualified, South Korea and Saudi Arabia have qualified and like I said, Australia is in a play off position against Honduras.
So that’s what we’ve seen so far. Happy to jump back to more discussion, Bren, about it.
17: 37 Brenda: I mean yeah, we should talk the US before we leave the international scene, I can’t leave without a shout out to the epic, epic hat trick, Leo Messi who carried the nation of Argentina into the World Cup at that away game in Ecuador. I don’t know if you guys saw it, I haven’t seen anything like that in quite a long time.
Shireen: It was glorious
Brenda: You thought it was glorious too, Linds?
Brenda: Not just me (chuckles)
So I feel bad for Chile, obviously, they are just the reigning champions of Copa America was really weird to see them go out that way, but they’ve never in their history, won a home game, like an away game in Brazil.
The expectations…and that’s since, that’s actually literally since 1916.
Brenda: So that’s a long standing tradition and so I wasn’t surprised, but I was sad to see the pressure on them, in that generation of players, who are being picked apart in Chile, instead of the corrupt federation.
Oh my gosh, Brazil! Coming up huge, I expect Neymar, Coutinho and Paulinho to continue that sort of run.
Shireen: But Brazil…
Brenda: Yeah, yeah, yeah…
Shireen: Lot of expectations, because they completely crashed out of their own host World Cup in 2014, so the expectations, and we all felt David Luiz’s tears. Like I cried along with him.
Brenda: (Laughs) For me, it’s kind of like Michael Jordan tears. I’m not… I’m not…
Shireen: But, I do. I have a soft spot for Luiz, but the thing is that, totally agree, I, Messi is just, that it was, in a way you expect him to come in on his angel wings and do that.
You expect him to come in with a hat trick in the last one minute of the game, because that’s what he does. Even Angel Di Maria’s face, someone took a photo and they retweeted it. He was in shock, he’s like why are we standing on this pitch? It was just…
Brenda: Who needs me? He literally looked like, I’m useless, and I agree 100%, I don’t know what he was doing, with half of those, it was like I’m Di Maria, like what, how did you even get on this team? I mean I was very annoyed with him, the last two games. And when he said, when he looked in the camera like why am I here, I was like, yeah, why are you here? Okay, cause if you can’t get a pass from Messi, I don’t know, like my kids could take a pass from Messi.
You know what I mean? I was absolutely frustrated, so yeah he came down on Angel wings, we all need a Messi in our life, like a hail Mary, so I wished Chile could have borrowed him for like 10 minutes. And the US could have borrowed him for like 5, so let’s talk about that hand wringing, about the US.
I mean, I was pretty annoyed that the conversation left out the women, when it talks about systemic problems in US soccer and how men’s teams, not qualifying, it means that there’s a systemic problem in US soccer and it very rarely, even considered the US women’s national team, but, how do you guys feel, all the feelings about US team right now?
Lindsay: I can [inaudible 00:20:45] if people want me to. I agree with your point Brenda, but I do want to say that there are a little slightly different pipelines, there are slightly different problems to consider because men, male athletes have so many more options, especially in US sports. And I think the visibility of those sports really hampers the development of soccer in the United States, it’s kind of similar to tennis in that way, but also it’s similar to tennis, where it’s a very much pay for play system a lot of the ways. So I think that, if there are programs in place to address that and to change the training styles and kind of modernize the game a little bit. And figure out what we’re doing wrong, but I don’t think I was quite as bothered as a lot of people were with [inaudible 00:21:27] the women’s team or different teams.
I wasn’t upset when there wasn’t a clarification that this is the men’s soccer we’re talking about, right? I think that there just needs to, we need to remember to clarify in that way. So that US soccer, as a whole, doesn’t default to the men. And that’s a problem in sports as a whole.
21:47 Shireen: I had a problem with the conversation being a little about how will our children be inspired? Because, like I’ve mentioned, I live in Canada, my children have never had the opportunity to be inspired by Canadian soccer players that are male. So my sons have always looked to the women’s team. Starting as far back as when my kids were pretty small, you know following learning, how to head the ball from Christine Sinclair and this conversation about how will the kids be inspired or they look to, it’s a grand stage. Well, we just have to retain our children to not see that, and just look at fantastic footballers. That’s really important.
I feel sad for, okay, I was giggling watching, looking at my twitter. I mean, I feel sad for Americans, like I’m sorry you’re really upset, but come on. Let’s be realistic here, I’m gonna get so much anger from people, and I’m sorry, I know you love your soccer, but isn’t it a lovely compensation that you have the reigning world champions also? Like, here’s the mug for all your tears.
Lindsay: It still stinks though, honestly, because there’s gonna be a whole World Cup next year, and there’s not gonna be a team. There’s not a women’s World Cup happening at the same time.
I was a little disappointed, and anyone that knows me, knows I’m not the biggest men’s soccer fan, I have great memories from the last World Cup, going to bars and watching it with a lot of American fans. Just like I do from the women’s World Cup, but it’s just a summer where that won’t be the case, right for American bars, and that, that to me is okay to be disappointed about.
Shireen: No, I understand, well, actually I don’t understand, cause my team’s never actually been to the World Cup that I…I hear you, that’s a good point, that’s a fair point.
Brenda: I do think that Michael Bradley’s…well I mean a lot of their kind of comments on inclusion of a more diverse population have been really progressive and Clint Dempsey on the wall and criticizing the idea of the wall, given their closeness with Mexico. So I have a soft spot for a lot of the players myself, because I think they embrace the world, because they do embrace soccer in this way, which is an alternate sport in the United States, it is a fourth sport, right?
Okay, so this is a really exciting moment, in the midst of these men’s qualifiers, when a lot of women’s sides are refusing to take a backseat, Jessica?
24:12 Jessica: Yeah, I think we’re in this moment, and it was interesting to watch, I didn’t watch the US men lose, but I was watching on twitter and everyone sort of freaking out, and we did have this conversation of like, the US is not going to the World Cup, and they haven’t missed it in decades and the way that they were just, the women were alighted from a lot of that, in ways that were upsetting to people, and they kept reminding everyone that the US has actually won 3 World Cups.
Part of the issue around that, so many people leave women out as actual players, they don’t think of them when they think of sport and we can see this directly when we look at the economics of it. That the pay disparity, earlier this year was a huge story, for the US women’s team, back in April, they had a very public, at the end of a public and prolonged fight with US Soccer, that included the women filing a wage discrimination complaint, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the EEOC, they agreed to a new set of wages in a collective bargaining agreement with the US Soccer Federation, they’re not getting equal pay necessarily, but they are getting substantial raises, it was a really big deal.
This is part of a really long story about women’s soccer teams demanding better treatment. When I was thinking about this, I was thinking about how the Japanese soccer federation, back in 2012, there was a huge thing around the Olympics, for the women who had just won the World Cup, were in the economy section and the men, who were not remarkable, were in the business. In 2015, the Australian women’s team, the Matilda’s the canceled a sell-out tour in the US, saying that their pay was so low that it was illegal. And as we’ve talked about before on this show, firing of the first woman to lead Brazil’s national team, has caused several top players to retire in protest, there’s a been a torrent of criticism in Brazil against the national soccer federation, over several issues related to women. And this included a scathing open letter, penned by former players.
Last month, the Danish women’s team went on a strike after they were runners up in the Euro Championships, they refused to play a friendly. Their complaint is that the Danish Football Association, the DBU, does not want to classify the women as employees, which you can imagine is so they don’t have to pay them, as they should. To their credit, the entire Danish Professional Footballers Association strongly opposes this, in order to help ease the way, the men’s team in Denmark offered 500,000 Danish Kroners, which is about 60,000 pounds, a year from their agreement with the DBU to the women’s national team, but then according to the president of the player’s association, “This was on the condition of the Danish FA, the Footballer’s Association, securing the same basic rights for the women, in their agreement, as the men have in theirs. The DBU has unfortunately decided to reject this offer.”
Shireen pointed out to us this morning, before we started recording, that the current talks between the FA and the DBU are breaking down.
Argentina’s women’s team, Brenda’s been sort of the one pushing this around for English speakers, they went on strike last month, as well because they weren’t being paid at all. And we’ve talked about this before on this show. When they are paid, it can be as low as $8.50 per training session, for their August 30th friendly against Uruguay, no hotel was provided for the team as they traveled from 4AM to 9AM, they had to sleep on the bus.
And then the last thing I want to say, before I throw it to you guys, it’d be wrong to launch into this conversation without noting what recently happened in Norway. Which is similar-ish to what was going on in Denmark, their football association and the players union agreed to a deal in which male and female players will receive the same financial compensation, because the men will be making a financial contribution to the women’s team.
According to the Guardian, quote, “The Norwegian FA has announced it is almost doubling the remuneration pot for the women, from 3.1 million Norwegian Kroner to a total of 6 million Kroner, this includes a contribution of 550,000 Kroner by the male players. Money they currently receive for commercial activities undertaken as part of the national team.”
All of this together, just thinking of like all of these women, from around the world, rising up to say no, we deserve more, we’re players too, we matter to these countries, is so amazing and inspiring and what are your guys’ thoughts on this?
Shireen: I think it’s really, really important to recognize that this is systematically a problem, held all over the world. I mean, we saw Nigeria, the women’s team last year actually had to strike, they hadn’t been paid, despite winning the tournament, the entire continental tournament, they were not paid. They had a sit-in in the hotel, in Lagos and this has just been, we see it everywhere. We’ve seen it, and I will be torching this later, but just to reference it, the corrupt officials, and keeping in mind that officials and execs of national federations, are men. Let’s be clear on this, this is around the world, this is globally up to FIFA, we’re talking in every different federation, and it is looking at the women’s game differently, and the player’s definitely and how they should be treated.
I remember Professor Jean Williams, a historian on football and women’s football particularly, told us a couple years ago, that there’s no federation in the world that funds the men’s side, equally as they do the women’s. This was before the last World Cup, the women’s World Cup. So I’m happy to see that progressing in Norway.
Brenda: I totally agree, and on that note, a lot of the comments that we get when we push for women’s equal pay claims that the marketplace determines it, and that women should make equal profit, in terms of spectatorships before they ask for equal pay. I’d just like to put out a reminder there, that these national teams are subsidized by the state. From taxes, that everybody pays. So it’s not fair to cast the argument in that light.
So on that exact note, we have a very special interview for this week. The first signatures, and indeed co-authors of the open letter to the Brazilian Confederation or the CBF, that Jessica referred to earlier, were Tafa and Sissi. And for those less obsessed with Brazilian women’s soccer, Tafa and Sissi are both legendary players and coaches, now residing in California.
Sissi participated in the 1988 FIFA invitational in China and was awarded the golden boot for the 7 goals she scored in the 1999 women’s World Cup. Both of them, uber talented midfielders, graciously agreed to be interviewed about the letter this week.
31:07 Brenda: Today, Burn it all down is honored to have Sissi and Tafa, two legendary Brazilian internationals, whose names topped the recent open letter from women’s soccer players to the Brazilian Federation that we call CBFA or CBF.
So today, we’re gonna talk to them about the letter. And the reaction to it.
Hi, thank you both for being with us.
Sissi: Thank you for having us!
Sissi: Always good to talk to you guys.
Brenda: So, both of your names topped this open letter. Could you just describe, to listeners, what the letter is asking for?
Tafa: I start thinking about letter, not exactly the letter, but…This is Tafa, by the way.
I start to talk about some options of what to do, with Moya Dodd, she worked for FIFA before, especially in a counsel of equality, gender equality. And after Emily Lima was fired from the national team, I felt that we needed to do something about it. So we contacted Moya and we ask her what we can do to make this go around the world, because I think this is some kind of discrimination to fire Emily after 10 months of work, and not enough time to implement what she had in mind.
So Moya gave some ideas, and we brainstormed and we got to the point where we said okay, what about if we do this letter? And the next day, some players from the national team started to retire so Cristiane was the first one, then [inaudible 00:32:52] then the other players, and we thought that that was the moment. So we had to do something really, be strong about. We had to speak up and really be strong in our positions that that was not okay. So that is when we start to figure it out, okay let’s put this letter in, let’s see if more people can join the letter, giving some quotes so we can send, you know, around the world to the media around the world, and CBF can feel the pressure.
And that is when we start to put our thoughts together and put in a letter. And when we published, we were kind of expecting that we would get some support, but it was really beyond our expectations this [inaudible 00:33:45] that we thought.
Sissi: We didn’t know at that that point, that our letter is gonna, it was gonna cause a big impact. I’ll say 24 hours, we were very surprised. But I think the fact, that Emily was fired, and Cristiane decided to speak up, I think that’s when we finally realized we gotta do something. Because, we had a very similar situation here, Tafa and I, when we were playing for the national team, a lot of things that Cristiane mentioned in her interview, it also happened with us. We never thought at this point, a player like her is, at this point, gonna come out and say okay, this is how I feel, this is what we need to do.
Brenda: So, for you both, what are the top changes, what are the most important changes you would like to see?
Tafa: Well, the main thing, I think is the structure. We feel that we have been playing soccer for more than 30 years, the first national team was in 1988, is gonna be 30 years off the first national team to be selected, and we didn’t see a lot of changes in these 30 years. Pretty much, it’s the same with small improvements.
I think the world is improving a lot, we have in South America, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador that have youth soccer is getting stronger and stronger each time. Because they are investing in future generations, and we see that Brazil was stuck in the same mentality and the same priorities. So, my point is, we need to make sure that the future generation has a better structure than we have right now, that we had in the past. I think they have to have a better structure, they have to have a more professional mind and I think professionally, in Brazil, is necessary. Because, right now, kids that play soccer in Brazil, girls that play soccer in Brazil, they don’t have that vision of it being a career in the future because we don’t have that structure.
So lot of talents are lost in Brazil, because families don’t encourage them to follow their dreams. Families are saying that is not a career, that is not gonna make you to survive in that mash of culture.
First we need to open their minds, to change the mentality in Brazil, and make sure that the families encourage the girls to follow their dreams, changing this structure that we have up there.
Obviously we know that its not only CBF that needs to change the mentalities, all the organization that runs the soccer in Brazil, cease federations, the state federations the local districts that need to encourage the women, with tournaments and things like that. This needs to happen, this needs to change because if not, we’re gonna continue to suffer with the development of these girls.
And we’re not gonna have future generations to continue to do what we have been doing for 30 years.
Sissi: Also, we are looking to [inaudible 00:37:09] for the players to get a position. We know that they all like working together [inaudible 00:37:18] but also they are not get a chance to work in Brazil.
Tafa: The work is not progressing.
Sissi: It’s not fighting for the fact that Emily was fired, its not that. Its everything, tried to make sure that’s the time we want to see changes, but that’s what keep on happen. We gonna do this, but it never happen.
You can see the structure, over here, it’s 10 times different than it is in Brazil, so that’s where we like to see over there as well.
Brenda: Have you heard anything in response?
Brenda: To the letter?
Tafa: After 24 hours, after 24 hours that we wrote the letter and we publish it to social media and New York Times also, put it there.
So 24 hours, the president of CBF said that he, I receive a call from one of his assistant that he’s open his agenda to receive a group of former players to discuss further, what needs to be done in women’s soccer in Brazil and the meeting is gonna be October 17.
Sissi: Next Tuesday!
Tafa: Next Tuesday.
Brenda: Wow! Are either of you going?
Tafa: We cannot go, but we gonna participate through video conference. So we gonna be here.
Tafa: Unfortunately, a lot of players that signed the letter are overseas. They are not living in Brazil. So we gonna have two representative face to face and we gonna have, hopefully for me, I’ll participate in video conference, but we gonna have three or four players, former players that signed the letter, participating through video conference.
Brenda: Why do you think some well known players have been reluctant to sign the letter?
Tafa: It’s hard talking that point because, each one has their mind. I think, its what you think about, how you can help about. Some players felt like Cristiane, I think she was, for so long in the National Team, she felt that this is the time that, for her, she needs to make a new path, leaving the national team.
She create this debate, she thought that she needs to leave the national team to create the debate.
I think for the other players, its more, I still think they can make difference being side. I hope so, I hope that those players really make sure that they make impacting sign. But we don’t hear too much about it, I praise what Cristiane did, because takes lot of courage, and I think when you are to the point that you live the women’s soccer for so long, all the problems that women’s soccer have in Brazil, we live that for so long, that you feel that the way that you’re getting respect is living your dreams, that for me, tells something about your character.
I really praise what Cristiane did.
Sissi: I think the fact that maybe people say oh but Cristiane’s at the end of her career, that’s not exactly, I can see that she could still help the national team. We respect those are the ones that decide the best thing for us is to do something, but we’re the national team. We respect that, but I think we gotta look over everything.
Definitely, I think when I saw the video it was powerful. We can say [inaudible 00:41:12], this generations, especially Cristiane, she’s already did a lot for the national team. It’s not obligation, but we felt, that’s the time for us to do something, and we. I have to say, now for packing a lot of people to see how much we need to help, especially Tafa, we’ve been 24/7, trying to contact people and figure out what we can do, it’s been a lot of work.
At the end, I hope we can make some change, we can see the change. This is what we been looking for all these years. It’s tough, but…
Brenda: What keeps you going after all of those years? How do you find the motivation to pick yourselves up?
Tafa: I think living here you can see also…
Brenda: Living in California, you mean?
Tafa: The United States is you can see how much soccer, women’s soccer [inaudible 00:42:20]
We know that Brazil is the country of soccer, correct, but when you think Brazil, the country of soccer is for the men. That is the thing. When we talk about our experience in the women’s soccer, they say no, I cannot believe that you guys went through that. Brazil is the country of soccer, but I said, yes, but the reality for the women’s soccer in Brazil is completely different. If we think about women’s soccer, the country of women’s soccer is US. Because all the structure, all the levels all the different levels all the amount of kids, girls that play soccer, these are the country of women’s soccer.
When we think about women’s soccer, Brazil is still just in the beginning of the teams up there. And that is a fright because everything is slow there, you don’t see a lot of changes in the structure because we live in a culture where it is a macho culture. Where you know its very sexy sometimes, and we need to fight that because sometimes people think that the girls that play, they related, the girls that play soccer a sexual orientation. Oh they related the girls that play soccer in Brazil, kind of sexual object.
It cannot be like that, we need to change. Girls play soccer because they love soccer. They love the sport, its not because they wanna make it in fantasy, sexual fantasy for guys up there. They just want to be able to play the sport that they love.
And unfortunately, in macho culture, that we live, that we have to always fight for better quality of tournaments or we need to try for better structure or we need to fight for better wages or we need fight for…so we need to fight for everything up there. Its 30 years of fighting, fighting, fighting and we are in a point where okay, what will we effectively change right now? With FIFA giving the support? Or we gonna be behind other nations a lot. Because other nations are improving and we are not.
Brenda: Yeah. Well I thank you both so much for your time today. I hope you know that Burn it all Down supports you and values you and we admire you so much in your fight.
Tafa: Thank you so much Brenda. Thank you.
Sissi: We appreciate you.
45:00 Brenda: Okay, now it’s time for everyone’s favorite segment, we call it the burn pile. Where we pile up all the things we’ve hated this week in sports and set them aflame.
Jessica, wanna strike the first match?
45:14 Jessica: Yeah, I do.
In 2014, an independent report, commissioned by the University of North Carolina, found for 18 years, UNC had offered paper classes. Classes that only exist on paper, to at least 3,100 students, and then academic advisors funneled athletes into programs that kept them fraudulently eligible. By 2014, the scandal was already 5 years old. UNC has fired 4 employees for it, they disciplined 5 more, 1 former football coach admitted that he did know about the paper classes, another said he had some idea about it. Famed, championship winning basketball coach Roy Williams has constantly denied he knew anything. But the longtime academic advisor, and her successor, for a former basketball coach, the legendary Dean Smith, did know. To be clear, this fraud went beyond the money making sports and was widespread within the athletic department. This week, the NCAA committee on infractions, which was given this report 3 years ago, said it quote “Could not conclude that the University of North Carolina violated NCAA academic rules” and did not levy any academic penalties against UNC.
A CC Commissioner, Greg Sanke, the panel’s chief hearing officer, explained, quote “While student athletes likely benefited from the courses, so did the general student body.”
Additionally, the record did not establish that the university created and offered the courses as part of a systemic effort to benefit only student athletes.
I mainly just wanna laugh at this point, cause it feels so ridiculous and so blatantly obvious what they’re doing. But I’ll just go ahead and state that I’ll be, so there’s no confusion, the NCAA is not concerned about amateurism in sport, because of some dedication to student’s educations. That is so clear. This is a cop out of a reason to not punish the school, in what is considered the largest known athletics and academic fraud scandal. What is the NCAA even for? Spoiler alert, the answer is making money and that’s it. Burn it.
47:16 Shireen: I already teased about what I want to throw into the incinerator. And I’m really, really frustrated, and I mean to a degree, relieved but I want to burn the Pakistan Football Federation. It has been suspended by FIFA and it is actually the only federation to have been suspended. And it’s mind boggling that this happened, and my friend Natasha Raheel, she writes for the Express Tribune in Karachi, and she will link this piece to the show notes. And she actually says that, and she explains that FIFA, threatened with a suspension in May.
And what ended up happening is that there’s basically, and what you can call a football death spot, [inaudible 00:48:02] Faisal Saleh Hayat, he was accused of rigging the results and accused of manipulation by people…To be honest and a lot of times with anything to do with football elections is commonplace. With these internal power struggles and narcissism and like incredible amounts of [inaudible 00:48:20]. But what ended up happening is they appealed to a court in Lahore, Pakistan, which then appointed an administrator who took over the offices of the PFF. What happens is, FIFA suspended it, specifically about the accordance, with the fact that it stated undue 3rd party interference, so you can’t have a court of law, a recognized sovereign court of law overseeing the federation, at all. Because FIFA’s position, and it’s incredibly ironic and funny, is that it has to be able to manage it itself with impartiality. So that’s the formal reason why.
Now my opinion, the PFF is the cesspool of sexism that doesn’t support it’s female players, it actually becomes an obstacle to players who are playing overseas. This is really important, and I spoke with Natasha about this, and I think the other part that ends up happening is, the PFF doesn’t support, as I mentioned, it’s players, and there’s a player named Kaleemullah Khan who was the first Pakistani to play outside, and he was so frustrated, because as I mentioned before, the federations are supposed to advocate for their players and my friend Hajra Khan, is actually captain of the women’s side. And she is the first woman to play outside, she played in a league in the Maldives. And she expressed publicly, in an article also published in the Tribune previously, that one of her teammates mentioned that they’re impeding the progress of the women, and this was around not being able to attend the South Asian Football Federation Tournament.
And that’s the only prominent tournament in the entire region for those women. So the fact that the PFF couldn’t get their shit together, and support women in sport…just burn. Burn it.
Brenda: Burn it! Lindsey, what do you want to throw on the pile?
Lindsay: Jerry Jones please. (Laughs) In general…
Brenda: Every day, all day.
50:17 Lindsay: Always, forever. I’m just gonna redo a few of Jerry Jones’ quotes I’d like to note that we are recording this on Sunday morning, so we do not know what is gonna happen in the NFL today, as far as the anthem. The protest during the National Anthem. But we do know what Jerry Jones wants to happen, with his team and with all teams, which is nothing. Let me read you Jerry Jones, in case you don’t know, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, “if anything that is disrespectful to the flag, then we will not play.” Jones told reporters last week,” understand we will not, if we are disrespecting the flag, then we will not play. Period.”
Side note, if you say period when you’re talking, you’re just a jerk. That’s just like, a horrible thing to do. But anyways, Jerry Jones went on to talk about how he completely understood Vice President Mike Pence and why Vice President Mike Pence walked out, and essentially bought in to the narrative that Vice President Mike Pence, and President Donald Trump are setting that protesting during the National Anthem equal disrespect for America.
Jones went on to say we can not, in the NFL, in any way, give the implication that we tolerate disrespecting the flag, I know the Vice President did leave, because in his opinion, the teams were. We know that there is a serious debate in this country, but there is no question that the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys are gonna stand up for the flag.
This is all crap, if his players want to make a stand and kneel during the National Anthem, as a way to protest a systemic racism and police brutality, Jerry Jones should be supporting him. This is a man who supports the scum of the earth football players, the least he can do is support players that are actually trying to raise awareness for a good cause and one that needs to be tackled. Jerry Jones has also [inaudible 00:52:01] talked about how unfair Ezekiel Elliott has been treated, Ezekiel Elliott 6 game suspension was reinstated and Jerry Jones just went on to say how unfair that was. So, burn. Burn, burn….
52:18 Brenda: Okay, left to me. Last week, my burn pile goes to Manchester City and the English FA, because last week, Manchester City’s Pauline Bremer, 21 years old, suffered a deep leg fracture, and in an away game against Everton. During the women’s super league classic, they failed to have proper medical services. And she waited over an hour for an ambulance, screaming in pain. It turns out, there is currently no stipulation that emergency medical services be present. And even though ambulances must be present at men’s professional games, apparently the English FA did not see fit, to do the same thing for the women’s games.
Pauline will be okay, she had surgery and she’s posted some pictures on Instagram, but who knows about her recovery and how it was impacted by her wait for the medical services.
So I wanna burn this lack of foresight, that this happened to Pauline and her teammates who suffered watching her in complete distress. I’d like to just burn that down.
53:37 Brenda: Okay, after the cathartic burning of all that hostility toward patriarchy and racism, let’s celebrate some wonderful women’s achievement with our badass woman of the week.
We’d like to preface this all by recognizing the courage of those survivors, of sexual harassment and assault, who are navigating a particularly difficult media and cultural landscape right now.
It’s perhaps beyond the badass woman of the week category, but it shouldn’t go without mention.
The honorable mention for badass woman of the week, goes to Deyna Castellanos, the only woman to be nominated for a Puskas Award.
We’re adding a link, and we’re encouraging you to check it out and vote for her. This is for FIFA’s, for those of you who aren’t obsessed with football. It is FIFA’s award for best goal of the year.
And the winner is, can I get a drum roll? We’re amazing at that…is Esther Staubli, who became the first woman to officiate a men’s match at a U17 Wold Cup Match, between Japan and New Caldonia in Calcutta, India this past week.
Staubli, who we might remember, presided over the glorious women’s Euros of 2017, would like to say, when interviewed, it’s impossible to live from refereeing, and guess what she does? She teaches agriculture. Cow-milking, for example, so what is more badass?
Congratulations to Esther Staubli and all the players who get the honor to be officiated by her.
55:06 Brenda: Finally, in the sometimes dark days that are 2017, lets talk about what’s lifting us up this week. Shireen!
Shireen: I’m really excited to say that I’m going to be visiting Grand Valley State University next week, and I’ll be speaking about Muslim women in sport, the history of and the future, hopefully. And I’m excited about that, and that’ll be next Tuesday, I’ll be there, and I’m really excited to meet one of Burn it all down’s favorite sports historians, Dr. Loe Moore, so I’m excited about that.
Brenda: Okay, for me it’s Halloween. I’m pretty excited, I’ve got a good pumpkin carving game, I’m going on some pumpkin picking field trips, and I’m going as Hippolyta, Wonder Woman’s mom. So, I’m pretty stoked about my mom game this week and Halloween.
Lindsay: This is actually a hard week for me to come up with anything, but I would like to say the fact that Roxane Gay, the amazing feminist writer, and Channing Tatum, who she has vocally had a crush on for a very long time, and who is amazing, they are working on a collaboration together, and I’m just gonna post their tweet in the show notes, because I’ve never seen 2 people look so happy to be working together.
And that tweet has got me through some dark moments. It brought me such joy.
Shireen: She has a crush on Channing Tatum?
Lindsay: Yes, she loves him. It’s amazing Shireen.
She loves him so much.
Jessica: And has for years.
Lindsay: For years.
Shireen: That is so sweet.
Jessica: I’d like to say that I’m that happy to work with you guys.
Lindsay: I don’t know if the feeling is quite that mutual for me.
She is really happy you guys.
I’m happy, but I don’t know that I’m Roxane Gay with Channing Tatum happy… laughs.
Brenda: We’re gonna get there.
Jessica: Yeah, wow. Before I went to Berlin, I asked friends for podcast recommendations, and from those I started listening to this podcast called “You must remember this” which is hosted by Karina Long, where she’s fabulous, It’s about the forgotten or ignored history of Hollywood in the 20th Century, I don’t even know how to explain it, but it’s so brilliant and it’s so compelling and I had heard of it because there’s an amazing 12 part series that she did on Charlie Manson’s Hollywood a couple years ago and you should go and check that out. But the latest season is a side by side of the lives and careers of Jean Seburg and Jane Fonda, both actresses that became politically active and trailed by the FBI. I found myself taking extra long walks this week, with my dogs so that I could listen to it more, so ‘You Must Remember This’ thank you for getting me through what was a very hard week.
57:42 Brenda: Okay, that’s it for this week of Burn it all down.
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For Shireen Ahmed, Lindsay Gibbs, Jessica Luther and myself, Brenda Elsey, thanks for joining us and have the best possible week.