International Women’s Day 2022: #BreakTheBias in Football
This International Womens Day Fare is celebrating women creating change in and through football.
From referees making history, such as Salima Mukansanga who this year became the first woman to officiate an African Cup of Nations match, to grassroots clubs challenging discrimination through their activism, such as Les Hijabeuses in France, we have included women from across the globe that we think are changing football from the bottom up and top down. They and many others deserve recognition and to be celebrated.
International Women's Day is a time to focus on the gains made by women. Fare has created this list to acknowledge the vital work being done by women to develop football. We also use this IWD to call for further action to challenge gender inequality.
While the last 12 months has seen some wonderful sporting and professional achievements, from Sam Kerr earning the title of Australia's all-time top goal scorer to Payoshni Mitra becoming the first-ever CEO of the Global Observatory for Women, Sport, Physical Education and Physical Activity, we have also seen more devastating stories come to light of the abuse and discrimination women in sport face everyday. Reports of misogyny and sexual abuse in sport are almost commonplace.
So this International Women's Day join Fare as we celebrate all the women in sport who continue to push for change, who continue to demand better and safe conditions, and who continue to #BreakTheBias.
Fare 2022 International Womens Day list of change-makers in football:
Afghan women’s teams: Their bravery, strength and perseverance is to be saluted as they fled from Afghanistan during Taliban takeover. They are now coming together as teams and playing again in countries of asylum. Our respect to everyone involved in helping them to evacuate and find places of safety.
Shireen Ahmed (Canada) is a leading voice of people of colour in sport across North America. Her demands that sports - their people and institutions - do better are uncompromising. Her love of football is legion with references to Bend It Like Beckham littering her feeds. Already a member of the acclaimed Break It Down feminist podcast she was recently appointed a senior correspondent for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
ANJUFF the Chilean players association set up by women has successfully campaigned for professional contracts for Chilean players. It has taken a state law to come onto the statute books - due this month – that will result in a paradigm shift for women and sport in the country
Alexandra Benado is the future Minister of Sport of the new Chilean Government. She is a former national team footballer whose mother was murdered by state agents while she was a member of the Movimiento de Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR). She is the first openly lesbian minister in Chile’s history.
Tracy Brown (England) is part of Chelsea Pride, the LGBTIQ supporters group at the club. She has become one of the many campaigners who successfully fought to have the UK prosecuting authorities define the term ‘rent boy’ – often used in football chants – as a homophobic slur
Bailey Brown (USA) is the President of the International Supporters Council (ISC), the North American supporters network that has become the centre of progressive fan ideas across the region. "We're creating our own fan culture," she says as she leads the ISC in joining global movements for an equal voice and equal rights in football
Canada Women’s National Team: Olympic medallists during the Tokyo games, the team have challenged the Canadian FA to fight the culture of abuse and silence by investigating claims of abuse from former coaches. Their struggles is an example of a constant fight for better recognition. “Our voice carries a unique weight right now. We want to make the most of it,” captain Christine Sinclair said last year
By the time Brazilian legend Formiga announced her retirement from international football she was the only player (male or female) to have played in seven World Cups and seven Olympics. She has seen it all in her long career and is clear about the respect that she and women’s should be given. “When I started playing football we didn’t have the protection we have today. Back then people’s minds were really bad. Now we live in a different era, in a new world. So I think we need to show ourselves the respect that didn’t exist before.”
Stephanie Frappart (France) is normalising the idea that women can, and should, referee the high level men’s matches. Her list of achievements are incredible. She became the first women to referee a French Ligue 1 match in 2019, the first woman to take charge of a men’s Champions League match in November 2021, the first Women to referee a men’s World Cup qualifier, this year she became the first woman to officiate at a men’s European Championships
Filipino WNT: In the Philippines the women's team had to respond to online abuse and played down comments saying that most of the players with mixed American ancestry were 'Not Filipino enough'. They won through and recently qualified for the next WWC
When the Guyana Women’s National Team wrote to their sports ministry last year demanding "equal and fair treatment" they were referring to the struggle Caribbean athletes face in getting equal treatment. They called on the government for intervention and support to address disparities between men’s and women’s national team programmes. The letter was signed by a majority of players involved in the team going back to 2009
Helen Hardy and Manchester Laces (England) have lead a powerful campaign against the English FA’s trans-exclusionary policies at a grassroots level. Their work has led so far to almost 5000 players coming together to be represented and push for rule changes and advocate for a truly inclusive football
Antonia Hagemann (Germany): As the CEO of Supporters Direct Europe Antonia is used to being the only woman in the room at meetings and gatherings of governing bodies, leagues and supporter groups. Her time at SD Europe has been characterised by her passion and drive to create more fan-owned clubs and make governance a core concern of supporters, clubs and the governing bodies
Emma Hayes (England) is a champion of women’s sport who has overseen the steady rise of Chelsea Women’s FC to become a European powerhouse. Hayes won The FIFA Best Women’s Coach award in 2021 after guiding her team to three domestic titles and their first Champions League Final. She is amongst the first coaches to recognise the importance of tailoring performance and training to women’s bodies and the importance of considering factors such as the menstrual cycle
Debbie Hewitt (England) is the first women to Chair the English FA in its 159 year history. Taking up her role in January, the businesswoman was appointed as independent Chairperson of the FA board. She is only one of two women Presidents of football associations within UEFA.
Les Hijabeuses (France): The Paris collective has mobilised a movement to help fight the injustice of a hijab ban in French football that excludes so many young Muslim women and girls from football. In February they saw off a proposal put forward in the French parliament to make the wearing of the Hijab unlawful across all sports. This young dynamic group of girls from the suburbs are showing others what can be done to defend their rights
Sam Kerr (Australia): In January 2022 striker Sam Kerr became Australia’s all-time top goal scorer, overtaking Tim Cahill with 54 goals and counting. Born to an English father from Calcutta and a basketball-playing Indian mother, she is visible as a queer athlete and a role model for LGBTIQ people everywhere
Lise Klaveness (Norway) has just been elected the President of the Norwegian FA, becoming the second FA President in Europe. With 79 caps for the Norway NWT she is a former TV pundit, a practising lawyer, and a deputy judge in Oslo. She is seen as a future member of the highest football bodies across Europe
Helen Nkwocha (England) made history in August after her appointment as the manager of Tvøroyrar Bóltfelag, a top level mens club in the Faroe Islands. The appointment means she becomes the first woman to manage a European men’s first division club.
Payoshni Mitra (India): the former badminton player, athlete's rights activist and leading campaigner in the abolition of sex testing policies in women's sport has been appointed the first CEO of the global Observatory for women, sport and physical education. Mitra will bring her clear-eyed academic focus on issues related to sport and her commitment to women athletes of the global south
Salima Mukansanga (Rwanada) made history by becoming the first woman to officiate an AFCON match when she refereed Zimbabwe vs Guinea at the 2022 tournament. The Rwanadan had also refereed at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup
Kaiya McCullough, Mana Shim, Sinead Farrelly (USA) and all other women who have stood up to abuse and discrimination within sport. As NWSL players McCullough, Shim, Farrelly spoke out about abuses and sexual coercion from ex-coaches, calling out power dynamics and institutional failure. Their courage opened the doors for change
Colombian international Melissa Ortiz is representative of the new voice of Latin American women playing elite level football. Calling for equal rights, challenging league postponements, and using her platform on social media and as a pundit to represent the rights of ordinary Colombians
Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria): A talisman for Barca femeni and the Nigeria WNT, last month Oshoala made her 100th appearance for Barcelona. She is the most decorated African female footballer of all time, widely regarded as one of the greatest African female footballers of all time, and a joint-record four-time African Women's Footballer of the Year
Franca Overtoom (NL) is first ever woman, and a woman of colour, to officiate in top level men’s football in the Netherlands. Franca made her professional debut in April 2018 and took charge of her first Eredivisie match in November 2021
Khalida Popal: The former captain of the Afghanistan women’s national team and founder of Girl Power in Denmark has became the symbol of the effort to evacuate athletes from her home country as the Taliban regained power. Her previous battles to set up a Women’s team in Afghanistan and to challenge systematic sexual abuse within the Afghan FA means she is now widely recognised for her bravery and leadership qualities
Almost a year ago Marie Portolano (FRA) produced a documentary called “I’m not a slut, I’m a journalist”. It blew the lid off sexism in sports journalism in France. The documentary was followed by events which led to an open letter signed by 150 journalists calling for women to be “better represented, better protected and better valued” in sports media
Preeti Shetty (ENG) has become one of the few women and the only South Asian woman in a Premier League boardroom after she was appointed to the Brentford FC board. Shetty is highly regarded within the Sport and Development sector
Nathalie Simons (USA) made history as the first Black American woman football referee in the US, becoming a true role model. She says, "I haven't had anyone to really identify with. I was the only Black person on every team I played on. I was always the token Black girl"
Haïfa Tlili (France): As a sociologist and activist Haifa has drawn on her academic training to work alongside Les Hijabeuses and help build the international network to raise awareness on the Hijab ban in France
15 Spanish Sports Journalists: Pioneering women working in sports journalism in Spain are widely celebrated. Last November fifteen women of a new generation in Spanish sports media wrote a powerful joint editorial calling for a stop to the “dangerous and discriminatory machismo” that women in sports media face on a daily basis. The fifteen go by no collective name, but their letter has drawn a line in the sand
Mali WNT striker Assaita Traore has called out the inequality between men's and women's football. Traore has criticised the diversion of funds intended for women's football development and urged the Mali FA to invest more and provide high-quality facilities: "This is also a matter of mental health” she said recently
Supporters of Barcelona and Real Madrid (Spain) Women’s teams: It may be the biggest rivalry in Spanish men’s football but when it was announced their teams will meet at the end of March in the UEFA Womens Champions League few people expected all 85,000 tickets for the Camp Nou to be sold out in three days. Another nail in the coffin of the myth that supporters do not want to watch Women’s football.
Amanda Vandervort (USA) has been a leading figure in football for more than two decades, working with FIFA, FIFPro and the MLS. In 2021 Vandervort was appointed President of the USL Super League, the new women’s second division in the US due to launch in 2023. Amanda will oversee the pathway into professional women’s football, helping to break down entrenched barriers to access
The USNWT have made numerous gains for professional women footballers. Their fight for equal pay has been carried across the world, their struggle has shown that equality can become a reality. With multiple superstars in the team, with media, commercial and social change interests individually and as a collective, they remain a beacon in World football
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