After a week of arrests and resignations at the highest level of the game, FIFA has some actual football to focus on.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup kicked off in Canada over the weekend, not a moment too soon for soccer’s embattled ‘governing’ — if you’ll pardon the looseness of the language — body.
There are some good stories to tell about this tournament. With an expanded field of 24 teams and an estimated global viewership of one billion people thanks to unprecedented TV coverage, the women’s World Cup has never had a bigger stage.
FIFA’s puppet master Sepp Blatter is quick to take all the credit.
“Women’s football is definitely my baby,” he said a month ago, before he had bigger things to worry about. “I consider myself a little bit as a godfather of the organisation of women’s football in FIFA.”
This is the man who once suggested women wear tighter shorts as a marketing strategy. Who said “football is very macho” to explain the lack of women on the FIFA executive. And who, when FIFA finally appointed some female executives, told them to: “Say something, ladies. You are always speaking at home, now you can speak here.”
As far as godfathers go, I think I’d rather have this guy.
Sepp at least had the grace to acknowledge: “Women’s football is still limping a little bit behind.”
That might have something to do with the decision to hold the tournament on artificial turf, something the blokes have never had to endure.
Artificial turf is known for its extreme exfoliative qualities, while players are 40 per cent more likely to suffer knee injuries playing on the fake surface.
The issue is compounded when you discover a lawn company offered to install natural grass at all World Cup venues for free and FIFA knocked them back.
Another area where women’s football is ‘limping a little bit behind’ is pay.
Soccer’s highest paid player, Cristiano Ronaldo, raked in $US80 million last year, placing him at No. 2 on Forbes’ list of highest paid athletes, second only to Floyd Mayweather.
The highest paid women’s soccer player, Marta Vieira da Silva, who has been described as the female version of Pele, makes $400,000 a year. Most women don’t make five digits.
Ronaldo takes home 200 times what Marta receives. Ronaldo in fact makes more than every player in the women’s World Cup combined.
If there’s a bigger gender pay disparity anywhere, I’ve yet to find it.
There is still much to do in women’s soccer. But the next month could prove a giant step forward in the women’s game.
So tune in when you can. And go the Matildas!