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Women’s World Cup Highlights Success – Not Alongside the System, but Despite It

2023 FIFA WWC: Female footballers have had to fight not only opponents on the pitch, but also the system outside.

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Football
4 min read
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Since its release in 1996, the song ‘Three Lions’ (commonly known as Football's coming home’) has been the affectionately-adapted anthem of England football team’s fans.

From the ’96 Euros to date, English fans have been united by the tune, vociferously ambitious in their dream of bringing football ‘home’ – that is, England winning major honours.

Except, barring the 1966 World Cup triumph, football has never been ‘home’. 

Correction: Men’s football has never been ‘home’.

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A year ago, in front of around 87,000 supporters in London’s Wembley Stadium, England’s women’s team won the UEFA Women’s Euros – an achievement the nation had never experienced before at the senior level – by beating eight-time champions, Germany.

Now, the Lionesses stand on the verge of history again, as they will take on Spain in the final of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Yet, only two days before the commencement of women’s football’s pinnacle event, the same English players who bought football home, publicly expressed they were left disappointed by the football governors at home.

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Football Came Home, Before Home Let Them Down

In many ways, the 2023 WWC has been a trailblazer. The prize pool has been set at $110 million – over three times the 2019 figure. Moreover, each player will also receive a direct payment from FIFA based on their team’s performance – ranging from $30,000 to $270,000.

Behind the blossom, however, is a stockpile of dried leaves crying out for attention from the footballing top brass, ones who are usually spotted in blazers and tuxedos. Albeit, to no avail.

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With FIFA’s announcement of direct payments to footballers, the English Football Association (FA) decided to no pay any bonus to the European champions from their coffers, perhaps, effectively agreeing on what’s ‘enough’.

The English players pleaded and supplicated, but despite their requests not being promptly responded to, they chose to ‘play with pride, passion and perseverance,’ as the statement read.

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The Sexual Misconduct Allegations in the Zambian Camp

England’s case, unfortunately, is only a solitary instance among many on the list of teams being at crossroads with the management back home.

The Zambian men’s national team came close to qualifying for the World Cup on a few occasions, most notably in 1994, where they missed out to Morocco by only one point.

Whilst they were not successful, the women’s team scripted history on 22 July, representing the nation in the World Cup for the first time. Eventually, they went on to finish third in their group, beating Costa Rica in their last fixture.

Away from the players, although, the focus has remained on the Zambian coach Bruce Mwape, who has been accused of sexual misconduct.

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Speaking to The Guardian, an unnamed Zambian footballer said “If he wants to sleep with someone, you have to say yes. It’s normal that the coach sleeps with the players in our team.”

Amid the allegations, FIFA have decided to remain mum, while also not allowing a response from the accused himself. On being asked about the accusations in a press conference, a Spanish reporter was asked to ‘keep questions restricted to football and tournament only.’
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Similar Story in Haiti

The Zambian women footballers are not alone in their fight against sexual misconduct. Haiti – another nation that qualified for its first Women's World Cup, ending a 39-year-old drought after their men’s team did the same in 1974, share a similar story.

In 2020, accusations of sexual abuse were levied on the Haitian Football Federation president, Yves Jean-Bart, by 34 alleged victims. As per the reports, Jean-Bart would coerce the players into having sex at the main training centre of the team, under the pretence of getting expelled should they not agree.

Jean-Bart was subsequently banned by FIFA, but the suspension was lifted by the Court for Arbitration of Sports (CAS), who deemed the evidence provided was not sufficient.

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With No Helping Hands Around, Jamaican Footballers Take Matters Into Their Own

Haiti’s neighbours, Jamaica, have had an exceptional campaign. Despite being placed in a difficult group alongside France and Brazil, they managed to qualify for the round of 16, before losing out to Colombia.

Yet, they found themselves in a massive turmoil ahead of the competition, as their trip from the Caribbean to Australia looked unsure till about a month ago.

With the federation not offering much assistance in terms of necessary expenditures – be it travel, nutrition or compensation – players decided to take matters into their own hands.

Midfielder Havana Solaun’s mother started a crowd-funding account, which was successful in raising over $50,000 for the players. A few other such initiatives cumulatively contributed around $50,000 more, eventually helping the team make it to the World Cup.
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Fighting, Despite the System

Another payment dispute involved the South African team, except unlike their English counterparts, the Banyana Banyana opted for a much harsher approach and decided to boycott a friendly against Botswana earlier this month – forcing the federation to field a second-string side and subsequently suffer an embarrassing 5-0 defeat – before the dispute was eventually settled.

There are other instances of women’s teams highlighting the lack of necessary financial support from their federations, including Canada. 

Barring that, there are also instances of teams revolting against the governing bodies over personnel appointments. Many renowned Spanish players will not be featuring in the final against England, owing to their disagreement with coach Jorge Vilda.
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Beyond the massive strides taken by the Megan Rapinoes and the Alex Morgans – rewards of which are now being reaped by the global female footballing community holistically – the 2023 Women’s World Cup highlights issues aplenty.

Issues, that are glaring enough to claim that these set of trendsetters, who set the stage on fire in Australia have had to fight, and win battles – not alongside the system, but despite it.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  fifa world cup   FIFA   Women's Football 

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