Have you ever thought what it feels like to be unemployed for two years?
Have you ever felt unsupported?
Have you ever reached that dark realisation that your dream will never come true?
- having no on else present; on one’s own.
- without others’ help or participation; single-handed.
- isolated and lonely
Professional women’s football, since it’s inception has been a rollercoaster ride. Recognition, respect and equality have been what most athletes have requested and sadly still do today. Over the past two decades women’s football has been shaped around the success of the United Sates of America. Trailblazers both on and off the field starting in the 1990s and turning the game on its head in 1999 and more.
In a tournament final the United States of America played against rivals, China at the historic Rose Bowl stadium. As both sides were left scoreless after full-time and extra time, a record 90,000 fans (the largest ever for a women’s sporting event and one of the largest attendances in the world for a tournament game final) gasped at the dreaded penalty shoot-out. Brandi Chastain scored the winner after it was locked at 4-4 dropping to her knees, whipped off her shirt and celebrated in her sports bra. An iconic moment which began it all. Sports Illustrated magazine made it their front page and so did many newspapers around the world. Girls began to dream and nobody dared to stop them
For a competition that is nine years old and holds a surprising 25 teams, women’s football should be the talk of the town, media and fans given it’s tough road to the finals. This competition divides participating teams into two groups; Central and South with the top four of both conferences entering the play-offs.
As far the competition set up goes, the obvious question is how do you televised or broadcast 13 games a week and is it or will it ever be financially viable? Sadly, no.
In the first season of women’s football the game was broadcasted on television on the Liv TV network from 2008 until the contract expired in 2010 with no signs of renewing, it was blackout for women’s football, the players, families and fans.
It was then left for the clubs to transmit their own games on their respective websites and some games would also be transmitted on the ANFP’s website.
Many argue have the women’s game been given financial backing and proper marketing following the dissolve of televised matches fans could have been drawn to matches, grown closer with players and find new interest in women’s football.
However, the ANFP only saw radio as the best form of transmission for the game to then, the people an impersonal outlet filled with barriers. From 2012 the ‘most important’ matches from the adult leagues and under 17s were transmitted through ANFP owned radio station ‘CNX Radio Chile’. Chilean football derbies have always drawn record attendances and views across multiple platforms. Having said that, in May one of the most historic derby between women’s Universidad de Chile and Colo Colo was broadcasted live on Chile’s biggest football channel CDF.
Sadly, women’s football are yet to maintain a permanent seat in live television as the main website who broadcasts matches every week is http://www.fpfem.cl/ and on radio CNX Radio Chile and Pasion de Hincha Radio.
Girls, boys, women and men also want to be able to sit back on a weekend as they do to watch the men’s want to do the same and watch women’s football. The footballing organization is impeding girls of fulfilling their dream of one day to play in the big time with the broadcasting restrictions.
Fall down 8 times get up 9
The definition of ‘Alone’ speaks volumes as it is exactly what women’s football in Chile felt running from club football to the national team. Pressure to qualify for the World Cup 2015 Canada reached boiling point as a spirited La Roja failed to secure a spot for the tournament.
The national team was treated with both anger and sadness as this young team full of the same fight as their male teammates sunk into loneliness while the ANFP and many others gave them the cold shoulder when in that moment a team needs support.
Soon after La Roja failed to reach Canada 2015, ANFP did not arrange any friendlies or training sessions for two years which led to Chile dropping from 41 in the FIFA Rankings to 128th in the world.
One woman’s fight led a revolution
One name, Iona Rothfeld. During the unspeakable darkness the Chile national was going through, Iona stood up and started the women’s players association.
Speaking in an interview with FIFPRO, Iona says when the team reached out to the ANFP regarding games or training they kept quiet, “We kept asking what the reason was for not having a game, but they said nothing,” Rothfeld said. “Instead of developing our game, they just ignored us. It was outrageous.
It was not only the national team where conditions were poor but local football was feeling the burn too, ““From my experiences at my own team, Universidad Catolica, and those of my teammates in the national team in their clubs, I knew conditions were really bad.”
In July 2016 Anjuff was created and such were the conditions of the blackout of women’s football, Romina Parraguire felt the psychological strain and hung up the boots at 25-years-old. Speaking to Ultimas Noticias she says, “I retired due to psychological fatigue. It was tired of always being in the same situation.” She has since returned to football and played in Colo-Colo’s Copa Libertadores final where sadly the Chilean side lost in a penalty shoot-out.
With direct communication and change the main goal, according to Rothfeld it has been good start. “The proposals were received very well. The ANFP included some in its new women’s football development program,” Rothfeld said. The girls have also started a project to allow girls to play alongside boys as girls cannot play organized until the age of 12.
As the national team moves forward with progress on and off the pitch, La Roja and Chile can look forward to the Copa America 2018 as hosts. The Chilean national team have had extraordinary success in friendly matches having lost once in 2017 to France in September and then to an astounding 5-0 battering of rivals Argentina in October.
There is always more work to be done
Domestic football conditions did not better but in fact got worse as according to Rothfeld two out of 25 teams act professionally with players not on contracts but clubs arrange food, pay for expenses and have good technical staff which leads to better player development. Other teams however did not have a coach or training pitch while clubs demanded players to pay to appear in matches.
“These clubs said they had no money for the team, although we knew they had,” Rothfeld said.
Iona continued,”clubs want to spend as little as possible on a women’s team” as clubs asked players to pay half of their expenses and when asked if men had to do the same their response was that men bring in more money.
Gender discrimination is one of the main reasons as to why women’s football has failed to take off. While having players who have appeared in World Cups and players making their mark overseas and having very successful careers yet no body knows them. One player who is flying the Chile flag proud is Paris Saint Germain goal keeper and La Roja captain, Christine Endler who’s marketable capability is extraordinary in turning the women’s game on its head.
The future is frightfully bright for this generation of football stars. The 2018 Copa America is the beginning for this team to show to the world that after what they have been through that the grass is always greener on the other side and equality and football always wins.