The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie Peterson, February 25, 2019

Sadly the situation in Colombia is not all that unique, Lots of must-read links and excerpts from my interview with Melissa Ortiz

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SNOW DAY!

This is my back porch. We’ve got an inch and Fast Eddie got a day off of school so we made cinnamon roll french toast and bacon. In Portland we average just one or two snow days a year and the city kinda goes a little nuts. Guessing this is winter’s last gasp out here, at least I hope. I’m ready for spring.

First off, let me highlight Jonathan Tannenwald’s excellent story from this morning on Tobin Heath for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Really well done.

So what did I tell you last week? Things are definitely heating up when it comes to women’s soccer news, which is awesome for me because there were a few weeks in December when I had no idea what to write for The IX. (Editor’s note: not that you can ever tell when Annie struggles. Amazing.) The SheBelieves Cup starts this week, too.

But unfortunately, some of the news is sobering. I wrote last week about the situation in Colombia, which has been brought to light by the social media campaign started by Isabella Echeverri and Melissa Ortiz. While neither player has “officially” retired, they believe this move seals their fate.

What these women face is not unusual, especially in South America. You can read what I wrote here. BTW, I independently verified the claims. FIFPro, the international players’ union, pointed out that while players for the Colombian senior women’s team weren’t getting paid, the coach of the men’s team makes the equivalent of $3 million a year. The women’s side currently has no coach.

There is no requirement that federations even field an active women’s national team. The latest FIFA rankings show that 27 federations have women’s teams that haven’t played a match in more than 18 months. (Teams fall out of the rankings if they don’t play, and many federations essentially put their teams on hiatus if there’s no World Cup or Olympic qualifying).

I understand the reality, men’s soccer generates more interest and revenue. I understand that we’re spoiled here in the United States by a federation that values the women’s game. Really, I get all that.

I just wonder when these federations will be held accountable. If the women’s game is something that is important, as FIFA and the various confederations say, when will they step up? It will likely take greater public pressure, the drumbeat will have to get louder. Women’s teams need to play and the players need to be compensated.

I need to emphasize something here. As a reporter for the AP, my focus is a bit wider because we’re global. And issues of inequity are drawing a lot of attention. So that’s why I’ve been speaking to a lot folks on the topic, like Camila Garcia of Peru last week.

You can read a little bit from my interview with Melissa Ortiz below. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MelissaMOrtiz.

The other topic I wanted to bring up, albeit briefly, is the disturbing allegations about mistreatment of players both abroad and here at home. Some of these claims are unsubstantiated, some are more credible. I do want to delve into this matter, because it’s important, but it is irresponsible to do so at this point until I know more.

I didn’t even get into the other things going on this week. Check out the links below to see more. And once again, thank you so much for reading. If you have any ideas or comments, please feel free to reach out at apeterson@ap.org.

This Week in Women’s Soccer!

Here we go and there are a lot! Reminder: The underlined words are the links. CLICK these! Clicks = Attention from editors, producers, and webmasters. If you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me! apeterson@ap.org.

First off, ME! I wrote about the Colombia situation here.

I also had a story on McCall Zerboni heading into the SheBelieves Cup. Zerboni is the picture of perseverance. Really inspiring.

My esteemed colleague Rob Harris is AP’s Global Soccer Writer. He breaks a ton of news, including this story on how there’s no open vote on the Women’s World Cup bids. Seems wrong.

Speaking of World Cup bids, it looks like Japan is in. Australia, too. The deadline is March 15. Strictly from a personal point of view, either of those is good. LOL.

Also from the AP: Australian federation won’t look into the Stajcic dismissal.

Chelsey Bush writes about the Matildas for The Equalizer. Periodic reminder: Please subscribe. You really should. It’s worth it.

Caitlin Murray for the Athletic on the NWSL and A&E Divorce.

My The IX colleague Howard Megdal wrote about the NWSL/A&E situation, too.

And so did Jonathan Tannenwald for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Caitlin also looked at US Soccer’s financials for the Guardian. Jill Ellis needs a raise.

Rachel Bachman of the Wall Street Journal spoke to Carlos Cordeiro.

More GCU players are coming forward with abuse claims. This disturbing case keeps getting worse.

SELF magazine talked to Julie Ertz about preparing for the World Cup.

The BBC is going to air England’s SheBelieves Cup matches. Progress!

Excellent work from Suzanne Wrack of the Guardian on a plan to improve officiating for the women’s game.

Man City-Arsenal Continental League Cup final recap is here.


Tweet of the Week


Five at The IX: Melissa Ortiz

Here’s a bit of my interview with Melissa Ortiz about the situation in Colombia right now.

Annie: Can you tell me what what's happening right now in your own words?

Mellisa: So we have started, Isabella and I, this movement using social media to really share through our own experiences, about the conditions and the reality of playing for the Colombian national team. And we’re doing this through a very short series of videos. Really it's to demand change, to better the future for our women's team. I mean, we know our our consequences are very likely we won't be rejoining the team, but we want to better the future of the generations to come so that they do not have to go through the things that we did. And this is just a small example of how other national teams that are fighting the same fight and can't find a voice, this is a way that we can show there is there is a way to have a voice. But you have to be very brave and really think about it do it.

Annie: What kind of inspired you?

Mellisa: So my last tournament with the Colombian national team was in 2016. I was back in camp for Rio and I was named to the alternate squad so I traveled with the team and everything. I just got back from an Achilles tear, although I was 100 percent already competing. We had been witnessing like the downward spiral of the woman's team. Everything that we had built, you know, qualifying for consecutive World Cups on top of U17 to U20 World Cups, to Olympics, and we knew that things weren't going in the right direction. So the past year I think it was a bunch of things that inspired us. A little bit over a year ago the federation started a new cycle to go to Copa America which is the World Cup and Olympic qualifier, and Pan American qualifier. And during that process they stopped paying the girls. The girls used to be paid ($20 a day), then they took it away. So that's when I decided I don't want to be part of the farce anymore: This is just a joke. The way that they treat us is just not right. So of course the girls went to Copa America and unfortunately we didn't qualify -- I'm not saying because me or others weren't there. The team is very talented — but I think it was just the way that the federation was handling everything, I think it took a toll on the team. Then after the Central American Games, which was in July just this past year, we hosted it in Colombia — I was already out of the national team — The girls did really poorly.

Isabella came back from playing in that tournament and we got together in Miami and we were just like, `This is absolutely ridiculous.’ Everything that we worked so hard to build, a women's team platform. Everything that all the all of us on the team have really done, it's going to nothing. We thought that no one else would say anything because there was a lot of fear. There had already been a girl that was pretty much punished the past for speaking up. If we're going to do it we have to be ready to say goodbye to this chapter. So we recently got back together again and we decided to go through with it because we're four months before the Pan American Games and there's still no coach in place. Just four months before! So we have been inspired by a bunch of different things that I think gave a snowball effect to really make us want to speak out.

Annie: We recently did a story on Maca Sanchez down in Argentina who's who's talking about you know being a club player and not getting paid. Do you see these examples of what other women in other South American countries are doing and does that kind of like motivate you a little bit?

Melissa: It inspires us, absolutely. I've always wanted to say something, personally, and Isabella too, but we always got scared because, God forbid, you say something and you're gonna be left out of that World Cup or Olympic roster. So unfortunately we didn't say much when we had the platform and the attention on when we were in a World Cup. It came to a point when both of us were like, if not us, who, and if not now, when. And I really appreciate other women for speaking out like Maca in Argentina and I know the Puerto Rican team recently did something together. So there's different things like that that are so inspiring. Isabella and I both have a very good platform following base in the soccer world especially on social media that we're going to leverage that as much as possible because as much as we love what we do, we want to be advocate to grow the women's game, especially in Colombia, through our own experiences.

Annie: Does the fact that it's a World Cup year kind of also give you guys an extra push to put these issues out front, knowing that women's soccer is getting a lot of attention right now?

Melissa: I think so, yes. I wish it would be the other way around where we could say we're in this World Cup and we leverage that. That was a little bit of our thinking process, like, `We didn't qualify. How are we going to leverage it? Who is going to care? But I think this is a moment where there’s a World Cup this year and we're seeing how social media has greatly increased the visibility and the attention on the women's global game. We have been in World Cups and have been in an Olympics, and there some players on my team that play professionally in Europe and overseas. We need to use this moment and really try to seek change in the woman's game. We really need to find support and people that want to go ride us with that support the cause. We want social change.