Lessons Irish Women’s Football Can Learn from Soccer in the USA

Many people might see women’s soccer in the United States of America as a benchmark for everyone to follow. But what was the reality for the players? And is this where we should be looking for “best practices”? Answers on a stolen postcard, please…

Call me cynical if you will, but the best thing every democratic country can learn from the United States right now is to do the exact opposite of what’s happening there. It’s as if the US is testing the world to see how well it can handle depressing fake news.

As for white pudding, the answer is not much. No wonder people are gawping at America in dismay.

We have the repeal of Roe V. Wade, the shortage of infant formula (horribly ironic, I know), soaring prices, three mass shootings this week (bringing the total to 288 school shootings in history country), widespread abuse in professional sports, college admissions scandals and Bud Light beer.

I don’t want to say lightly how dangerous, discriminatory, sexist and racist the United States is right now, but I do think all light beer should be banned, rather than, say, historical books – which of classes have been banned in many conservative schools.

So here’s the deal…

AR-15 rifles? Authorized.

Books on slavery? Absolutely not.

It would be a joke if it wasn’t so serious…


Let’s remember why I’m really here – no, it’s not just Guinness – and focus on football for a minute. The United States women’s team are world champions. Women’s soccer is more developed in the United States than anywhere else in the world. What’s not to like?

Turns out that’s a good question.

The National Women’s Soccer League has been around since 2013, and the league has grown exponentially in recent years. Growing, ie in terms of players, teams and fans. Oh, and the abuse scandals.

Not so much in terms of player rights, player autonomy or fair compensation. So in that regard, the NWSL is kind of an indicator for all sorts of issues currently at play in the United States.

In the first pro draft, players learned where they were being sent via Twitter – that’s right, the same social media app that lets quirky comedians type in funny one-liners and disgruntled employees say why they hate their boss. This was, in effect, the official way a professional league told pro athletes where they would go to ply their trade, for less than $12,000 a year.

Female soccer players were forced to live on $250 a week.

So if your WiFi went out because you couldn’t pay your internet bill, how could you even download Twitter to get all your “business” communications from the NWSL? What if you still had your pink Razr flip phone from when you were 14 because a smartphone was like a month’s salary?

Players were forced to make tough decisions. They could continue their career in the United States for next to nothing; take their gaming skills overseas for next to nothing; or retire right after college. Given that professional football players peak between the ages of 27 and 30 (or thereabouts), this was half tragic, half ridiculous.

The bottom line was that 22-year-old phenoms, whose talent had earned them full scholarships to one of the top 10 colleges in the United States, were retiring from their chosen sport due to a lack of opportunities, money, stability and – above all – honesty.

Some of the best players in the world were forced to seek out a chance to play the game they loved. Some have taken a chance and moved abroad. Some went to Japan, others to Scandinavian countries. A few even tried their luck in Russia – ask Yael Averbuch how well it went, with five girls crammed into a hotel room with two beds, a mobile phone and half a potato for food .

Averbuch, a USWNT staple, had traveled to Moscow after the 2011 season due to the cancellation of the American League. While a free trip to Russia might have sounded enticing (… not anymore, Vlad), the lack of concern for player welfare was slightly disconcerting. If that was how the best players in the country had to make a living, what about the rest of the loyal, hard-working grunts that make up the numbers in any professional sport?

The lack of structure and organization in women’s soccer in America – and the pitiful salaries – have turned the dream of continuing to play after college into a nightmare. Sure, more players could have done what I did – try your luck in a million different places, win paycheck to paycheck and live off a suitcase – but no one gets done. an idea of ​​a secure career. Not that it ever bothered me – but hey, I never liked the idea of ​​a white picket fence, kids, dogs and a husband. Well, in all honesty, I love dogs…


The league has grown in recent years and opportunities to play overseas now include high-paying full-time gigs, such as the WSL in England, Damallsvenskan in Sweden, Toppserien in Norway, WE League in Japan and Superliga Femenina in Spain. That said, a few key issues still prevent some of America’s top female athletes from pursuing soccer careers in their home countries.

Let’s start with the money. Some of the league’s most experienced players, such as Lauren Barnes, who holds the record for most NWSL appearances, started when minimum wages were as low as $6,000. Players needed second jobs to afford their “pro” careers, and franchises were disbanded on several occasions.

Risking your security and stability for $500 a month doesn’t sound like the best smartest decision. But that’s what the women who really liked the game did.

I know a pro who regularly went from tough, limitless training sessions to babysitting three kids under the age of 5 because she wasn’t even making enough money to survive as a professional footballer. The reruns of “Peppa the Pig” were getting unbearable, cutting apple slices for a snack felt like torture, and the kids were losing all their charm. If they had any to begin with. Did I mention I love dogs?

Then, all too often, the playing conditions have been dismal. Early in the league, the “stadiums” some teams played in included high school football fields (football with your hands, not your feet); fields of grass (as in astro) in the middle of nowhere; and mobile bleachers that replaced permanent grandstands to bring people to watch games.

As if horrendous pitch conditions and miserable wages weren’t enough, players were also forced to give up their own rights during the buying, selling and transfer process. These women were not responsible for their own future – which, of course, presaged what is happening in the United States as a whole right now.

It may seem hard to believe, but players weren’t able to choose where they wanted to play; when they might be bought or sold; or if they wanted to move abroad. Players could be bought by a club like Orlando Pride, then just 48 hours later told they were going to Kansas City for the season.

If they didn’t like it, too bad. It was a modern form of indentured labor. Women were disposable. Like property. If they didn’t do what they were told, they couldn’t work – or play! – at all. Say it’s not true, Mr. Lincoln!

Finally, as is now irrefutably apparent, abuse has plagued the league for many, many years. Big-name players, such as Christen Press, Mana Shim and Alex Morgan, all came forward and filed complaints with US Soccer years ago detailing abusive coaches, training environments and experiences.


So what did US Soccer do in the face of these women’s complaints? You think they immediately did the right thing by calling every player, listening to their stories, and helping them get all the mental health therapy they needed. And they rigorously investigated the ET… allegations.

No, sorry. They did none of that. They sent an email saying they had looked into the matter and would “take care of” the issues.

And did they?

No. Still. Years later, men who had abused their players — consistently throughout the NWSL’s formative years, with some coaches even “grooming” players throughout their club and college careers — occupied always positions of power. Coaches who abused players could still control their playing rights, contracts, playing time and, essentially, their lives.

Recently, a glimmer of hope broke through the dark clouds hanging over the United States and the NWSL.

You may have heard of the Rory Dames scandal, which led to the Washington Spirit coach being fired after multiple allegations of verbal and emotional abuse.

What you may not know is that he was the FOURTH coach this year to be fired over allegations of abuse and misconduct.

Which confirms that a systemic problem existed in the NWSL that led to repeatedly taking advantage of players: emotionally, financially, mentally, physically, and in any other sense of the word you can think of. But also – and this is where the light creeps in – that it is finally approached.

There are those who would say that the United States has so much to do. You can rent an Apple scooter at Disney World and head to Olive Garden for unlimited breadsticks before a Starbucks and Netflix. Hmmmmm…

Of course, the United States also has some of the best female soccer players in the world and, by far, the best women’s national team. So the burgeoning Women’s National League in Ireland could learn a lot from American football.

The most important thing is to learn from their mistakes – and above all to avoid making the same ones again.

Leave a Comment