For most of this past week, the talk of the women’s football world has been the goings-on in Canada, specifically, coach Carolina Morace quit and the entire women’s team went on strike. It’s a little hard to make sense of what is going on, because there is a lot of he-said, she-said. Ultimately Morace quit because of her differences with the Canadian Soccer Association. She wanted more control over the program, and given what she has done with the team, she deserves it. The CSA basically said no.
Here is the thing about national football hierarchies: they are always in the wrong and always shortsighted. They are run by politicians who are looking out for their own personal interests rather than those of the nation’s football interests (when the footballing interests of the nation and the personal interests association leadership align, it is more happy coincidence than anything else.) On the international scale it is even worse, as even a cursory glance at FIFA will tell you. Think of FIFA as football version of the Catholic Church–certainly FIFA and FIFA officials think of themselves that way. Just as the Church has its own kingdom and its hierarchy (a last vestige of the Roman Empire) so FIFA has its own Pope (Sepp Blatter), its own Cardinals (the regional heads), and its own Bishops (the FA heads). FIFA presides over international football the way the Church does religion. Neither tolerate government interference, and both fight back when national governments do interfere (unless it is a dictator who interferes.) The only difference is that FIFA office holders can be voted out, so there is even more politics, corruption, and backstabbing than in the Catholic Church.
The CSA is no different than any football association. Its own internal power struggles (the CSA has regionalized too much of its authority) thwart any attempts at reform. From the shadowy reports that have come out, Morace was banking on a centralization reform, which did not happen. Ultimately, this left her with far less control over the direction of the team than she wanted/expected/was promised. Therefore, despite turning the Canadian women into one of the top teams in the world, and arguably supplanting the United States as the top nation in CONCACAF, she could not live with the bureaucratic nightmare that is the CSA. So Morace quit. (More proof of the CSA’s incompetence–the Canadian men’s side hasn’t been to a World Cup since 1986 and isn’t even a second-tier power in CONCACAF. Also, the Canadian top-tier men’s league is American.)
As a result, the Canadian women’s team is using the only weapon it have left: a boycott of all training and international matches. This is a double-edged sword–it embarrasses the CSA, but it also harms the team’s World Cup preparation. The implicit threat is that the team may even boycott the World Cup. Nevertheless, the entire team, led by their star player, Christine Sinclair, are aware of the implications and united in the effort. This shows the importance of what they are doing.
The thing that has come to light is how badly the CSA treats the players. Although, the team primarily wants Morace back, they have other demands involving compensation. The women do not get enough money to live on, and football, particularly national team football, is their primary job. Once again it’s more of a he-said she-said with regard to figures, but it appears that the Canadian men’s team gets proportionally more for doing far less. If one goes by Canada’s reputation for liberalism and equality, this would be rather shocking, but of course, reputations do not tell the actual story. In this sense Canada is just as bad countries that have more macho reputations.
The USWNT has had similar problems in the past, and so has the Brazilian women’s team. Both had to air their grievances through the media so they could be taken seriously. The USWNT won their fight, as for Brazil, who knows, although there are indications that things may be improving. Sports writers in other countries who have never bothered with women’s football before are finally taking notice. Hopefully the Canadian Women’s National Team will win their fight too because ultimately this is a battle for feminism. It has news around the world.
There are two other reasons why the situation has become desperate, and both of them have to do with the World Cup. The first reason is that Canada is in the toughest group of the tournament. They will duke it is out with two-time reigning champions Germany (in Germany), France, and African-powerhouse Nigeria. All four of those teams desperately have something to prove.
The other reason, and the far scarier one, for why this needs to be resolved quickly is because FIFA is going to be choosing a host for the 2015. The frontrunner is Canada, but the other nation vying to host is Zimbabwe. That’s right, the nation of the greedy, violent, bloodthirsty, and just plain evil dictator Robert Mugabe could potentially host the 2015 Women’s World Cup. FIFA loves dictators. Please, Canada, don’t give FIFA the excuse.