For International Women’s Day on Monday, Observer and Common Goal, which helps players invest 1% of their income in the game, organized a round table made up of four professional players with 178 international matches. They met to discuss why female soccer players give back and what needs to change as the game continues to grow.
Despite having a much smaller slice of the football cake, half the football players involved in Common Goal they are women, why is that?
Caroline weir Manchester City and Scotland: For me, it’s about visibility. I would have loved to see a group of women play soccer when I was younger. It’s just about that and also about showing girls how powerful a group of women can be. Which makes the voice so much louder if we all sing from the same hymn sheet.
Pauline bremer Wolfsburg and Germany I agree. We are also very lucky in the professional leagues now, with all the possibilities we have. So that’s why I chose, or we choose, to give back. We know that in other countries or in other parts of the world it is not the same and if we put everything together, we can make things happen.
Isabella Echeverri Seville and Colombia: Soccer is so powerful that it can reach all parts of the world. As women, and all the players at Common Goal, we know how powerful soccer is and how that little 1% can change the lives of so many different children or organizations.
Sofie Junge Pedersen Juventus and Denmark: I also hope this move will make it the norm that you join Common Goal and give back when you are a professional player. There is so much money in the football industry and I think we should give back 1%, that’s not a lot.
Common Goal is not the only way that female athletes elevate each other, their voices, and their sports. Around the world, women are moving into leadership positions in sports and other industries. In the United States the actor Natalie Portman and World Cup winner Abby Wambach are two of those involved in the new club Angel City and the tennis star Naomi osaka endorses North Carolina Courage.
CW: Being part of a women’s group, we are used to being on teams as players, but being a part of this type of team and seeing high-profile women draw attention to women’s soccer is great. We are in fortunate positions now and we hope the next generation is even better and able to do the same.
THAT IS TO SAY: It is something very positive. I am proud to be part of that generation of women who are trying to change the status quo, trying to elevate each other, especially women in sports.
Gender equality is not just a women’s issue, what changes would you like to see in different areas of the soccer industry to accelerate change?
SP: A lot of big men’s teams are investing in women’s football now, but I also understand that they have to run like a business. But the bigger associations, UEFA and FIFA, definitely need to invest more in women’s football, the difference between the amount they give to women’s football and men’s football is too great. Why not invest the same in men’s and women’s soccer? That could really make a big difference.
THAT IS TO SAY: The investment has to be there so that we can improve the game and level the conditions and opportunities that women have in sport. We need more women in positions of power, women in places that can make decisions. But we also need the support right now from the people who are in those positions and who can change the reality of the game. Those people right now are mostly men who have been at work for a while. So maybe they are not so open to women’s football.
PB: In order for it to work, you must also increase the focus on the women’s game and that starts with media coverage. When people can see women’s football and it is attractive, they will enter the stadiums and that’s when it pays off for clubs to invest in women’s football.
CW: I fully agree with what has been said. I would also like to see more women working in soccer. We need more women and girls playing, but there are also all the staff that go with a team, many of those roles are male. You also look at managers, male managers run women’s teams, but it’s not the same the other way around. That starts from a younger age, girls are interested in soccer, not necessarily playing or wanting to be professional players, but just getting involved, wanting to work in soccer in some way.
What would be your message from DIM to girls and young women who want to become soccer players?
CW: Growing up, he lacked role models and opportunities to play in Scotland, he played with children. But I was lucky that when I turned 18-19, the game was turning professional in England, so I was able to move there. As much as many teams are professionals and the facilities have improved, there are still many things where they are still quite a bit behind. The challenge now is for women to feel comfortable enough to challenge things and speak up. As much as the game has grown so much in the last five to ten years, the challenge will be to keep pushing the boundaries. We are grateful for the way the game has gone, but we have to keep pushing for better things. If you have a dream of being a professional footballer and you are a little girl, there is absolutely no reason why that cannot happen now, thankfully.
PB: It is important to follow your dream and know that now nothing is impossible. Women played soccer when it was not allowed, when it was forbidden, and they achieved things, so the chances of achieving it in the game are huge now.
THAT IS TO SAY: I don’t like to compare women’s and men’s soccer in Colombia because it is a completely different sport. They have everything and today we continue fighting for a professional league that plays for more than two months. The facilities are not the same, not even in my selection. It is a constant struggle. It is a constant reminder that you are still a woman and that you are worth less, so to speak, than the male players. Latin American culture is very, very masculine and soccer more so. It has been difficult, but for me to be able to speak out and be part of the generation that can change things is something to be proud of. I would tell you that you are strong, you are stronger than you think, you are more powerful than you think. If they have a dream, they have to work hard to achieve it. Nothing is impossible if you propose it and your heart. Being a girl or a woman you are not less, you just have to work a little more.
SP: But you should also know that if you don’t turn professional, you can still get something out of playing soccer. There are so many things to accomplish by being part of a soccer team. Just have fun.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism