‘Players not taken seriously at all’
More than four months before the Women’s World Cup begins, players in several countries are rebelling. They are demanding better conditions or simply more money, putting their own careers at risk.
What exactly is going on in which country? We list it for you.
France: five players quit
In France, five top players no longer made themselves available for the national team, with the World Cup approaching. That led to the departure of national coach Corinne Diacre on Thursday.
It’s exhausting to constantly have to ask for improvements.
Diacre was national coach for six years. She failed to convert club successes (Olympique Lyon has been a leader in Europe for many years) into good results with the national team.
Captain Wendie Renard was one of five players who withdrew. She indicated in a statement that she was dissatisfied with facilities and the level of professionalism. In addition, she was concerned about her mental health. “Under these conditions it is impossible to perform at top level,” she said.
Without mentioning Diacre by name, it was clear that Renard was primarily referring to the national coach. Diacre had been criticized for years for what the players perceived as a “control regime.” Three years ago, for example, goalkeeper and record international Sarah Bouhaddi abruptly ended her international career after disagreements with the national coach.
In previous conflicts, the French federation always sided with Diacre. Until Thursday, when the national coach was fired. “This coach change is part of a new global ambition, in favor of the development of women’s soccer and the performance of the French team,” the federation’s statement read.
Spain: fifteen players removed from selection
A revolt broke out among top Spanish soccer players last summer. Fifteen players, including many from national champion FC Barcelona, are still refusing to play for the national team as long as current national coach Jorge Vilda remains in office.
The players are unhappy about the handling of injuries, the atmosphere in the locker room, the selection policy and training sessions. The most high-profile example of Vilda’s criticized methods is his demand that the players keep the door of their hotel rooms open at night, according to the soccer players so he can check that they are in bed.
Vilda has been coaching the Spanish team since 2015 and is only Spain’s second national coach. His predecessor Ignacio Quereda was at the helm for no less than 27 years.
What have soccer players been fighting for in recent years? Check out this timeline:
Players and statements, a global overview
Quereda was also the subject of much criticism from the player group. In the TV documentary published in 2021 Breaking the Silence then-captain Verónica Boquete accused the former national coach of belittling behavior, homophobic statements and abuse of power.
Complaints from her and other players were never taken seriously by the league. Boquete was no longer called up for the national team.
Captain Alexia Putellas, voted best soccer star in the world last year, is not among the 15 rebels. The FC Barcelona midfielder recently said she hopes for a quick resolution.
“We want the players to be able to focus 100 percent on their performance. It’s exhausting to constantly have to ask for improvements. The coaches have to improve our conditions without us interfering all the time.”
Canada: sudden major budget cut
The Canadian team, Olympic gold medalist in Tokyo, was told six months before the World Cup that their budget will be drastically cut. Specifically, this means that the selection will have fewer training days, will have to make do with fewer staff and will not be able to play a practice match at home.
Nor have players received a penny for their contributions to the national team since January 2022. In a statement, the Canadian men’s team announced its support for the women.
When the league did not respond to their criticism, players announced they would strike by not participating in the She Believes Cup in February. But the league put a stop to that by threatening lawsuits for harming the league to the tune of millions of dollars. In the end, the team called off the strike.
The case plays out at the highest level in Canada. Captain Christine Sinclair (no less than 322 international games) addressed a parliamentary committee this week. She told it there that association president Nick Bontis had said after a meeting about the unequal payments: “What was Christine Sinclair bitching about?” (What is Christine Sinclair bitching about?).
Bontis had resigned as president shortly before, due to continued criticism from the Canadian soccer players. Nevertheless, a solution was not yet in sight. A new financial proposal from the league was described Thursday by the players’ union as “shocking and disrespectful.”
Colombia: players pay for everything themselves
“Don’t force us to work for free,” Colombian Yoreli Rincón summed up the complaints in 2019. Along with Melissa Ortiz and Isabella Echeverri, she denounced the lack of per diems and paying out of pocket airfare for training camps.
The World Cup participant’s players also pointed out that they wore second-hand uniforms, in men’s sizes. The video of the players went viral and eventually prompted a protest by the entire national team in 2022, prior to a match at the Copa América against Paraguay.
Rincón, Echeverri and Ortiz realized they were taking a risk by speaking out publicly. But, says Echeverri, “It was not brave, it should be normal. I’m proud of it and would do it again.”