AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Girl soccer player challenges gender rules in Argentina

Leave a comment

CHABAS, Argentina (AP) At age 7, Candelaria Cabrera goes after the soccer ball with determination. She drives toward her rivals without caring much about getting hurt and deftly manages the bumps on the dirt field.

She wears a loose white jersey from Huracan de Chabas, her hometown, located 230 miles (370 kilometers) north of the capital, Buenos Aires. Printed on the back and on her red shorts is a number 4. She uses white boots and shin guards. Her long, copper colored hair tied in a ponytail distinguishes her from the rest of the players.

[ MORE: Top PL storylines for Wk5 ]

“Cande,” as she is known by friends and family, is the only girl playing in a children’s soccer league in the southern party of Santa Fe province, birthplace of stars including Lionel Messi, Gabriel Batistuta and Jorge Valdano. Former Argentine coaches Marcelo Bielsa, Gerardo Martino and Jorge Sampaoli were also born there.

But a regional regulation that prohibits mixed-gender teams in children’s categories threatens to take her off the field – a ruling that has helped dramatize the inequality in opportunities for men and women in this soccer-crazed county.

“I had to sit down with her and tell her that there are some people who have to make rules in soccer and that these rules do not agree with what she wants,” said Rosana Noriega, Candelaria’s mother. “And, well, we both cried, and she said: `The people who make the laws are bad people.”‘

She was 3 years old when her parents gave her her first ball. They understood that it didn’t make sense to insist she play with dolls, even if there were “comments from other moms that they should not give her male toys because it would encourage her to be a lesbian,” Noriega recalled.

Two months ago, the regional soccer authorities notified Huracan that the team could no longer include Candelaria. She could only play on a girls’ team – which does not exist where Candelaria lives.

Noriega took to social media to speak out about her daughter’s case and was surprised to find that she was not the only one. Girls wrote to her saying they were facing the same problem in nearby towns and more distant provinces.

Of the 230 regional leagues recognized by the Argentine Football Association, only 68 have women’s teams. This is just one of the many disparities with men’s soccer. The most notable is financial: The best-paid contract in men’s first division is around $3 million a year. In contrast, women who play in their top category receive a travel voucher of $44.

Argentina’s female players, who will play in a November runoff game for the 2019 World Cup, have struggled financially when their payments were delayed. They also expressed discomfort when Adidas, the brand that sponsors a few members of the national teams of both genders, unveiled the new shirt for the Female America Cup this year with models rather than players.

“The biggest lack is that they don’t have younger players. They start playing at age 16, 17 and by then they’ve missed out on a bunch of issues that have to do with understanding the game,” said Ricardo Pinela, president of the Football Association’s Women’s Football Commission.

“The important thing is that every club in every corner of the country gives a girl the possibility of joining a female soccer team, to play with other girls, even if it’s just for fun, and from there generate the necessary structure that … sets them on equal standing as the male players”, he argued.

After Candelaria’s case became widely publicized, her regional league committed to reviewing the rule in an assembly at the end of the year – leaving her case in limbo until then.

While she’s officially now banned, the team has let her keep playing – at least until an opponent objects.

Candelaria’s most recent match ended with her team beating rival Alumni de Casilda 7-0.

“No one should say that a girl can’t play soccer,” she said.

Brazil’s Tite: Trump should be “more informed” before speaking about us

Photo by Pedro Vilela/Getty Images
2 Comments

U.S. president Donald Trump made a flippant, off-hand comment about the Brazilian national team two weeks ago, and it didn’t sit well with Brazil boss Tite.

[ MORE: UEFA preparing third club competition alongside UCL, UEL ]

Trump, who during a glorified public-relations event at the White House quipped at a reporter that Brazil “had a little problem last time,” was swiftly reminded of Brazil’s five world title when Tite was questioned about the American president’s joke during a press conference on Monday. It is the standard response anyone would receive from any Brazilian — yes, including even the national team coach — upon making a defamatory comment about the Selecao.

One can only assume that the “little problem last time” is a reference to this summer’s World Cup, when Tite’s side was knocked out by Belgium in the quarterfinals, to which anyone who has watched a second of soccer in the last 11 months would respond, “How did the U.S. men’s national team do?”

Speaking about Neymar, who — at the age of 26 — is suddenly closing in on Pele’s record of 77 goals for Brazil, Tite backed his superstar and firmly supported the idea that he deserves everything he achieves — quotes from Goal.com:

“All these records are important. I believe the athlete seeks this within the context. But also have that recognition. Having recognition is not a sin, growing up is no sin, be star is not a sin, have technical skills is not a sin. …

“Neymar has important and extraordinary records. And he also has a solidarity side that he will gradually show.”

Q&A with newly-named NISA president Bob Watkins

@NISALeague
Leave a comment

The National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) has announced its new president, and made him available for media interviews.

[ MORE: USMNT-Brazil preview ]

ProSoccerTalk spoke with Bob Watkins, NISA’s commissioner and the founder of United States Rugby, about plans for the nascent league. He’s also one of the owners of San Diego’s 1904 FC, the club with connections to Demba Ba, Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye, and Moussa Sow.

Other reports have also announced that 1904 FC — formerly an applicant for the USL — will be a founding member of NISA.

ProSoccerTalk: What attracted you to the position?

Bob Watkins: “Excitement of the concept. I’ve been involved with the NASL a number of years ago with the club in San Diego. As that began to collapse if you will, it became apparent to me that a lot of the things that seemed to be not going well could’ve been avoided if it had been an activity looking at it from a future point of view, looking at where soccer in the United States was going, and what could be done to support that. When Peter Wilt and John approached me to look at this activity, I thought it was a different way of doing things. Not necessarily that they were better than anything else, but I liked the concept. It was a little bit more democratic. It was about playing soccer rather than trying to build an empire or change the world.”

Bob Watkins, @NISALeague

PST: When you say “democratic,” what do you mean?

BW: “The league is owned by the owners. All the teams who come into the league subscribe to the league. We don’t have any high financial barriers. It’s relatively modest if you’re looking at MLS or USL, and to me that makes a lot of sense so that groups who want to participate can do it, and there are no geographic boundaries or franchise areas.”

PST: How can your experience growing U.S. Rugby help with a new American soccer league?

BW: “When I looked at this from years ago, and began to think about how do I help develop a club in San Diego, I took the veneer of the sport of rugby on, and took the veneer of the sport of soccer off, and compared them both. Rugby is in its infancy in comparison to what soccer is, and there’s a lot of embedded activity in soccer that is just becoming part of the system in rugby. But if you flip the base to the top, and then build your system based on the enthusiasm, participation, and passion for it, that’s where you’re going to win hearts and minds. We’re here to promote the game, not to promote individual fiefdoms or organizations. What rugby has not had, which is in the process of doing, is building a youth development program.”

PST: You mentioned your time with NASL. Are you concerned with the U.S. Soccer Federation’s support of a new league?

BW: “I look at U.S. Soccer as I look at U.S. Rugby or any other national governing body. They’re there, they command the respect and ability to promote the national presence of the game. We have to build a system that supports that process. If change comes as a result of the way we’re doing things, so be it. We’re not there to change the rules of U.S. Soccer. We’re there to play the game at the base level and make it enjoyable and pleasant.”

PST: Being owner-owned should help, but how do you make sure you follow a good path in terms of expanding/growing the league?

BW: “What one has to look at, is there are certain standards that U.S. Soccer has for professional teams to participate, so we don’t want to drop down in terms of teams like NASL. At the same time, we want to make sure that we’re not ahead of our skis in terms of our ability to manage the growth. One of the challenges that we’re going to have is that a number of teams will be coming into a professional level which is different than the amateur level. We need to support the clubs with as much on-boarding as possible. It’s like taking an amateur player and making them a professional … to compete in the marketplace. Each that comes into the league has to hit the same standards as everybody else has so we can help them promote them, and grow them.

PST: What’s next?

BW: “Timing wise we’re looking at the Fall of 2019 coinciding with the FIFA schedule. Until then we’re building a relationship with each of the clubs, with U.S. Soccer, and fan bases around the country.”

Watford stay perfect, beat Crystal Palace in fiery encounter

1 Comment
  • 3 wins from 3 for Watford
  • Pereyra, Holebas put them ahead
  • Wilfried Zaha scores for Palace
  • Zaha’s 7th goal in last 9 games

Watford beat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Vicarage Road on Sunday with Javi Gracia‘s Hornets making it three wins from three to start the new Premier League season.

That is the first time in 20 years they’ve won their opening three games of a campaign and the first time they’ve ever done that in the Premier League.

After a feisty first half which saw plenty of late challenges fly in, Andreas Pereyra put Watford ahead in the second half and Jose Holebas doubled the lead with a cross which flew into the far corner.

Wilfried Zaha, booed throughout after early yellow cards for and against him, pulled one back for Palace but it wasn’t enough to stop Roy Hodgson‘s boys slumping to back-to-back defeats.

With the win Watford remain perfect with nine points from nine, while Palace stay on three points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Palace started the game brightly and Etienne Capoue was booked for catching Zaha inside the first five minutes. Andros Townsend‘s clipped cross to the back post found Zaha and Christian Benteke unmarked but the latter headed wide.

Zaha was booked himself for a late challenge on Jose Holebas in a fiery start to the game.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Benteke went even closer moments later as Townsend’s cross found the Belgian but his header was well-saved by Ben Foster. And a few minutes later Foster denied the onrushing James McArthur

Watford’s best chance of the first half arrived as Pereyra’s shot was deflected over by McArthur when it seemed certain to fly in. Pereyra then curled an effort towards the far post which Wayne Hennessey saved comfortably in the end. At the other end McArthur again broke free but a wonderful last-ditch tackle from Holebas denied him.

Right on half time Daryl Janmaat then drilled a shot just wide of the far post as Watford finished the half strongly.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Pereyra gave Watford the lead after the break as a powerful run forward from Capoue saw the Argentinian cut in and curl home a beauty into the far corner. 1-0.

Palace pushed hard to get back into the game and Benteke curled a powerful effort inches wide of the post as the Eagles went so close to an equalizer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Watford then made it 2-0 with a bizarre goal from Holebas as his cross from the left flew over everyone, including Palace goalkeeper Hennessey, and into the far corner.

Moments later Palace halved the deficit as Zaha scored from close range to become their leading all-time goalscorer in the PL and make it 2-1.

In the 96th minute Joel Ward somehow headed wide when unmarked from a corner as Palace went so close to snatching a dramatic equalizer.

But Watford held on for the win as they remain the surprise package of the opening month of the season.

Justin Kluivert smart to choose Roma over Man United, father says

Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images
Leave a comment

With a last name like Kluivert, there will always be plenty of open doors for 19-year-old Justin to explore during his professional career.

[ MORE: Pogba’s agent hits back at critics, dares Man United to sell Pogba ]

While that’s certainly an asset and an advantage that might not be afforded to every young player in the game, it also complicates things to a greater degree. Some clubs — typically the bigger ones — might fancy a player like Kluivert, the son of prolific Dutch striker Patrick Kluivert, because he comes with a certain level of name recognition.

Rather than ascending so quickly and reaching the top of the game at such a young age, players without a famous name often make two or three — and sometimes more — moves up the ladder, each time rising to a new level with each new club, placing a priority on playing time and development, before landing with a Barcelona, a Real Madrid, a Bayern Munich, or a Manchester United. The more levels a player is tested and proven at before signing for one of these giants, the more certainty that exists on all sides of the transfer equation.

[ MORE: Messi not among Argentina’s Sept. call-ups; int’l future in doubt ]

Back to Kluivert, who just this summer faced this very dilemma. Man United were reportedly interested in bringing him to Old Trafford from Ajax, but thanks to his prior exposure to the inner-workings of the game — and a bit of sound advice from his father, one would assume — Kluivert choose to make a more gradual step up in competition when he signed for perennial Champions League qualifiers Roma instead.

His father, now 42 and assistant coach for the Cameroon national team, could not be more pleased with and proud of his teenage son’s maturity and decision making — quotes from Goal.com:

“I’m very satisfied with what he is doing. He doesn’t speak much, but he is someone who knows how to listen and is motivated, I would have liked to stay in Ajax for another year, but he chose for himself. I think Roma is a good solution.

“A jump to the Premier League would have been difficult… I think United would have been too big a jump. Roma is an important club, but the pressures are lower.

“Roma must not win by force and it is a club that is used to good football. It is the ideal place for Justin right now. Then, who doesn’t dream of Barcelona? But Italian football is catching up and Justin can take advantage of it.”

Those mega-clubs will still be there after Kluivert has spent a couple — or a few — years at Roma and shown he’s not only good enough to compete in the Champions League, but ready to move to club that’s competing for the Champions League.

Kluivert marked his Serie A debut with an assist in Roma’s dramatic win over Torino on Sunday. After breaking down the right wing, it was Kluivert who lofted the ball into the box and found Edin Dzeko to set up the Bosnian’s technically perfect strike in the 89th minute.