The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup saw the Jamaican team go on a historic run. The team advanced to the Round of 16 for the first time by holding the Brazilian team to a 0-0 draw — an amazing feat against the most successful women’s national team in South America.
Following this match, the players exuded pure joy, excitement and enthusiasm. They jumped into each other’s arms on the field, smiling from ear to ear with tears of happiness. Anyone could tell that this was a big moment for the team, and it happened on such a major, global scale.
Although the team did not advance into the tournament’s later stages, the feeling of optimism and growth left a significant mark.
And then it all stopped.
Just two months after this monumental moment, the Jamaican women’s team announced that they would be boycotting a pair of tournament matches because of “constant mistreatment” by their soccer federation, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).
The players state that they have not received “full and correct” payments from the World Cup and maintain that the federation did not pay several bonuses for qualifying for the World Cup.
While the JFF issued a statement that claimed all of its debts to players for 2022 were settled, the team wanted more clarity and transparency from those in the press boxes.
If you find yourself scratching your head because this story sounds eerily familiar, it’s because it is.
The Canadian national women’s team went on strike in February 2023 due to the inequalities players felt from Canada Soccer. This ranged from a lack of transparency regarding the association’s financial records, unequal treatment compared to the men’s team and pay equity disparities.
While some would argue that this citation subsided because the team agreed to an interim labour deal and will finally receive their payment for the World Cup, it’s far from the end of this story.
According to a statement released in February, the players themselves said that they have been “forced to choose between compensation and the funding required to hold necessary training camps.”
The players continue to say, “We have been forced to choose between receiving a fair share of the rewards from our teams’ successes at the World Cup and our commitment to equal pay and equal treatment.”
There’s a pattern here that’s clear as day: both federations apparently have no funding or money for these teams.
Due to the JFF’s inability to fund the Jamaican team’s trip to Australia to play in the World Cup, it was up to the players to scavenge for money. It reached the point where Sandra Phillips-Brower, the mother to midfielder Havana Solaun, created a GoFundMe page to “cover some of the expenses incurred on this incredible adventure Down Under.”
Let’s not forget that due to “lack of funding,” the JFF entirely cut the women’s soccer program and Olympic program in 2010 and did not regain activity until 2014.
Canada Soccer has been plagued with financial woes for years, to the point where they may have to file for bankruptcy in the future. According to Rick Westhead, a senior correspondent at TSN, Canada Soccer burned through more than 4 million dollars last year, even with 5 million dollars the Canadian government gave to the federation in 2022 with public funding.
The JFF now states that the players have been paid for their play in the World Cup, and the Canadian team is now locked in this deal with Canada Soccer, but it does not excuse the disparities these players face and all the extra work they have to do off the field to enforce equality. These problems are not erased as much as the JFF and Canada Soccer wishes they were.
It doesn’t even matter how good these players are or how well teams perform. The Jamaican team is the first Caribbean nation to ever qualify for a Women’s World Cup knockout round, and the Canadian team won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. At the end of the day, the federations that “represent” them do not have their best interest at heart.
Female athletes are not marketing puppets displayed on a stage. They are not meant to be used as tools to portray the idea of unity and equitability. How is anyone supposed to believe that there is equality in women’s sports when their representing federations don’t prioritize players or even believe it?
It’s hard to believe that matters will improve anytime soon; the lack of accountability from the JFF and Canada Soccer speaks for itself. The same old patterns repeat over and over, and it doesn’t look like they will just disappear into thin air.
Until then, I look back at the video of the Jamaican team celebrating their advancement to the Round of 16, knowing that although they did not win a championship, they walked away as winners. I watched the Canadian team line up to receive their Olympic gold medals in Tokyo, but the video I had up was abruptly cut short. Why? Because NBC ditched the coverage of the ceremony entirely.
Put the spotlight back on women’s soccer; the sport and its athletes deserve it.