COMMERCE CITY, CO – SEPTEMBER 19: Lauren Cheney #12 of the USA and Clare Polkinghorne #4 of Australia collide as they battle for the ball at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on September 19, 2012 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Long before the U.S. women’s soccer team filed a federal complaint over wage discrimination, the Australian women fought for better pay.
The Matildas, as they are known, will be among the 12 women’s soccer teams playing in Brazil next week when the Olympics get underway. Their strike following a successful run in last summer’s Women’s World Cup in Canada was significant as female athletes across sports fight for recognition and respect – including their American counterparts.
“In terms of being trailblazers, I’m not really sure. I think we just sort of went about it how we thought was necessary,” Australian defender Steph Catley said. “We felt we deserved more.”
The Matildas have made a quick ascent as one of the world’s elite teams. They gained national attention last year when they became the first team from Australia – male or female – to win a World Cup knockout round match by upsetting Brazil 1-0 and advancing to the quarterfinals.
The United States went on to win the World Cup with a 5-2 victory over Japan in the final.
Afterward, the U.S. women scheduled a pair of exhibition matches against Australia as part of a victory tour. But the Australian federation withdrew from those matches after the Matildas walked out of training camp and the players’ union said contract talks with the national federation had stalled.
The Matildas, whose contract had expired, said they had not been paid for two months heading into the walkout.
The salary for a national team player was equivalent to $14,475, based on a six-month playing period. That meant many of the players needed to have other jobs to make ends meet. Some players worked two club seasons, one at home in Australia and the other in the United States with the National Women’s Soccer League, meaning they played year-round.
The players were asking for a salary increase to $28,000 a year, as well as other benefits including improved accommodations and bonuses for international matches. The demands were part of larger bargaining that included the men’s national team and A-League players, and the Football Federation Australia at one point claimed the Matildas were being used as a pawn in the negotiations.
But there was a groundswell of support for the women, who have seen their popularity rise in Australia along with the team’s stature on the national stage.
American stars Hope Solo and Carli Lloyd, former player Julie Foudy and Canadian forward Christine Sinclair were among those who expressed support for the Australians. There were change.org petitions to support the team.
“The Matildas are courageously fighting for what is right. (hashtag) priclessrolemodels,” Lloyd posted to Twitter.
The deal that was eventually struck in November included a pay structure that puts the salaries for top players at $30,700 per year and those at the next level at $22,400. The contract calls for a 10 percent raise each year and improved bonuses and other benefits.
“Our elite female players deserve a full-time professional career path in football and this agreement represents a solid foundation we can build on,” players’ association chief executive Adam Vivian said at the time.
Striker Kyah Simon said the move made the team stronger.
“The Matildas’ story is standing up for what we believe in and standing up for our brand and our culture. I think at the end of the day it brought the team closer together,” Simon said. “It’s something we can look on with pride, and something that’s hopefully a positive future for our sport and for the new generation of players.”
The victory came well before a group of U.S. women’s national team players filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging wage discrimination. The women claim they make far less on average than their male national team counterparts. The complaint in late March came as the players seek a new collective bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer.
Heading into the Olympics, the Matildas are ranked No. 5 in the world.
They leapfrogged Japan and Korea in the AFC qualification tournament to earn the trip to Rio along with China – scoring 17 goals in five matches.
Australia is in a tough group in Brazil that includes No. 2 Germany, No. 10 Canada and Zimbabwe. It is the only group with three teams ranked in the top 10. The top-ranked Americans play in a group that includes No. 3 France, New Zealand and Colombia.
Australia opens the tournament on Wednesday against Canada in Sao Paulo.
“After the World Cup everything sort of started to change. When we came home there was so much media attention and so many people that were interested in what we were doing and really proud of the success we had,” Catley said of the team’s rising profile. “I think people always knew there was a national team, but I don’t think they realized how high in the rankings we were and how much better we were getting as a team.”
Antonio Conte sent “silly season” into overdrive (all over again) when he admitted on Saturday that he himself doesn’t know whether or not Diego Costa will remain a Chelsea player this season.
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Speaking after his side’s 3-2 defeat at the hands of Real Madrid in the International Champions Cup, Chelsea’s first-year manager confirmed the reason for Costa’s continued absence this preseason — an injury — but went on to say the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard’s club future remains up in the air just 14 days before the 2016-17 Premier League season kicks off — quotes from the Sun:
“I can say that today Costa is a Chelsea player. He didn’t play in these games because of injury and if he solves the injury and I see in training he’s in good shape it can be possible to see him in the next game against Milan. But I can tell only this.
“I speak for today and today Costa is Chelsea’s player. Tomorrow if you ask me if Costa will remain with us, I don’t know.”
Costa, who signed for Chelsea from Atletico Madrid two summers ago, has regularly been linked with a return to the Spanish capital. However, Atleti announced on Saturday the signing of Sevilla striker Kevin Gameiro, who scored 68 goals in three seasons (all competitions) with the three-time defending Europa League winners, reportedly for nearly $40 million.
Atleti would hardly be the only suitors for a goal-getter who has netted 32 times in two seasons in the Premier League, including 20 times in 26 games during his 2014-15 debut campaign.
Julian Green celebrated his 21st birthday six short weeks ago, which is context that’s easy to forget when a player goes to the World Cup and scores a goal at the age of 19.
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Putting another way, he’s still extremely young and far from a finished footballing product. On Saturday, in the penultimate friendly of Bayern Munich’s preseason, the Tampa Bay-born German-American attacker bagged a first-half hat trick against Inter Milan.
From the deftest of touches on the first goal, to the outside-of-the-box power and precision (with his left foot) on the second, to the authoritative slam home on the third, Green might just be working his way into a regular substitute’s role behind star striker Robert Lewandowski this season.
Saturday marked the second exhibition in which Green scored a goal this preseason, having netted in Ancelotti’s first game in charge, against German fifth-division side SV Lippstadt, two weeks ago.
The game in 100 words (or less): No David Villa? No problem, apparently. Playing without their star man — and 2016 Golden Boot leader (13 goals – yellow card accumulation) — New York City FC cruised to a 5-1 drubbing of the Colorado Rapids, who entered Saturday’s contest 15 games without a loss (last loss: April 9). Frank Lampard bagged the first hat trick in NYCFC history, giving the Chelsea legend 10 goals on the season (in just 11 games played). It’s just the fourth home win of the season for NYCFC, who have won more points (19) away from home than any other team in MLS this season. The victory increases NYCFC’s hold on the Eastern Conference’s top spot to five points above the New York Red Bulls. The Rapids, meanwhile, have left the door wide open for the LA Galaxy, winners of four straight, to go second in the Western Conference with a victory over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday.
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Three Four moments that mattered
28′ — Lampard turns it home at the far post — Few, if any, of Lampard’s goals this season have been beauties, but he just keeps on scoring. Nothing else really matters, especially as NYCFC keep winning.
37′ — Azira sees a second yellow — There was little question about the card-worthiness of Michael Azira’s open-field take-down of Jack Harrison, and just like that, the Rapids found themselves a goal down, and a man down.
42′ — Taylor beats Howard for 2-0 — One chance, two chances, three chances. The Rapids seemed content on allowing the home side however many looks they needed to make it 2-0. Eventually, Tony Taylor finished the job.
81′ — Lampard finishes a counter, and the beat-down — So, that thing I said about the “quality” of Lampard’s goals this season. Scratch that thought.
Man of the match: Frank Lampard
Goalscorers: Lampard (28′, 81′, 84′ – PK), Taylor (42′), Mendoza (75′), Gashi (90+2′)