Women’s World Cup build-up in turmoil as player revolts rage

Women’s World Cup build-up in turmoil as player revolts rage

Player protests and high-level resignations dominate headlines amid a growing sense of reckoning in women’s football less than five months before the 2023 World Cup.

Noel Le Graet, president of France’s football federation (FFF), resigned on Tuesday, while Canada Soccer boss Nick Bontis stepped down a day earlier.

These all have to do with those countries’ players being embroiled in bitter disputes with their federations.

Canada’s women’s team have vowed to boycott a pre-World Cup camp next month over equal pay and support, while Le Graet faced allegations of harassment.

A government ministry audit concluded the 81-year-old Le Graet did not have the “necessary legitimacy” for the position.

French women’s coach Corinne Diacre is also under fire, and her future may be decided on March 9 by an FFF select committee.

Spain has also been rocked by a revolt by 15 players, who withdrew from selection consideration in protest at coach Jorge Vilda.

While the clashes could cloud the women’s global showcase, which begins on July 20 in New Zealand and Australia, players have vowed their fights are far from over.

Some say the recent resignations should be just the tip of widespread changes.

“Bontis’ departure MUST trigger sweeping change,” Amy Walsh, who played for Canada at the 2008 Olympics and earned 102 caps, posted on Twitter. “It’s not enough.

”Our athletes —- as well as future generations of Canadian footballers —- deserve so much better.”

Neither Bontis nor Le Graet, however, are leaving the game.

Bontis was named CONCACAF Council vice-president (North America) on Saturday, while Le Graet, who has denied all accusations, has reportedly been pegged to lead FIFA’s Paris office.

The turmoil in the two women’s programmes is in stark contrast to their success on the pitch.

Canada are the reigning Olympic women’s champions, while France topped their group in the 2023 World Cup qualifying.

And while the governance battles rage on, female footballers have forged strong bonds — regardless of what country’s colours they wear.

When the Canadian women played the recent SheBelieves Cup under protest, they found they had allies in players worldwide.

The Americans, who settled an equal pay lawsuit with their federation for 24 million dollars a year ago, and the Japanese wore purple tape on their wrists at the SheBelieves Cup.

The U.S. women said in a statement that “Although we are now on the other side of this fight… our counterparts in Canada and elsewhere are experiencing the same pervasive misogyny and unequal treatment that we faced.”

Across the pond, England’s Lionesses wore purple wristbands at the Arnold Clark Cup to “display their support (for) the Canadian WNT players and for gender equality,” the team said in a tweet.

Canada’s call for equality goes beyond equal pay.

Forward Janine Beckie, who was in Qatar for last year’s men’s World Cup as part of Canada’s broadcast crew, saw the “disgusting” discrepancy between the two programmes.

She cited as an example that the Canadian men’s team staff was twice the size of the women’s.

“I think we’ve been fighting blindly, not knowing what our federation was capable of in terms of support, and then we were all witnesses to what our men’s team received,” said long-time captain Christine Sinclair.

Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt told media through tears in Orlando that she nearly quit over shoddy treatment from their federation, but Sinclair and coach Bev Priestman convinced her to reconsider.

France’s team captain Wendie Renard said last week she would not play at the World Cup as long as Diacre is in charge.

Fellow French internationals Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani have also said they were stepping back from the national team.

Spain’s 15 players declared themselves unavailable, saying that playing “significantly” affected their “emotional state.”

The federation replied saying that it would not tolerate any pressure from players.



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