Equal pay is the buzzword in the world of football at the moment.
Australia is loud, Brazil is caught between a rock and a hard place, brands like Nike and Visa have also joined the conversation.
Even here in South Africa, there’s pressure on Safa to improve the pay structure for national women’s football players.
Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) launched a campaign calling on Fifa to offer the same amount of prize money for teams at the Women’s World Cup as it does in the men’s tournament.
The PFA is also involved in ongoing negotiations of a Collective Bargaining Agreement for their own W-League (women professional league) and A-League (pro men’s league), which could see men and women getting equal basic pay.
Here’s why the Aussies are making a noise; this year’s Women’s World Cup in France has a prize fund of $30 million, with the winners earning $4 million.
That’s a massive difference to the $400 million that was on offer at the 2018 men’s World Cup in Russia, which saw winners France win $38 million.
The reason for this outcry is because the Matildas have reached the quarterfinals in past three World Cups (2007, 2011 and 2015), while the Socceroos did not make it past the group stages in the World Cups 2010, 2014 and 2018.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Besides hosting it in 2010, our Bafana Bafana have not qualified for a World Cup since 2002 and they are also very inconsistent at the Africa Cup of Nations, which they have failed to qualify for several times and haven’t gone past the quarterfinal stage since the year 2000.
The shock for our boys is that they actually have a top-paying professional league and very competitive semi-pro, amateur leagues, plus many academies both private and club-related as well as a national school of excellence.
Meanwhile, Banyana Banyana have plugged away without a professional league and have managed to be competitive in continental competitions where they have never finished below fourth place since 2006.
They have also qualified for back-to-back Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016 but owing to the luck of the draw, they have not yet made it past the group stages.
They are playing at their first ever World Cup in France this year, after missing out of the African title on penalties with Thembi Kgatlana being star of the show, winning the tournament’s best player and top scorer awards.
She was also named the CAF Women’s Footballer of the Year and her goal at that tournament won the CAF Goal of the Year.
What have the men done in national colours in recent years?
Does this not warrant a serious discussion about the future and accessibility of women’s football in the country?
Brands have jumped at the opportunity to be part of this conversation with Visa launching a campaign for the World Cup, where a group of teenagers run about a dried out field playing soccer, shooting towards what can only be described as goals in the loosest sense of the word.
As the players chase the ball, the camera quickly cuts to a frustrated young girl - the only female player on the pitch - whose persistent pleas to receive a pass are falling on deaf ears.
A few seconds later, however, one of the boys floats the ball in her direction, she controls it, drops her shoulder and skips past a tackle and then fires a shot past the goalkeeper standing between the makeshift goalposts, much to the delight of her teammates.
Meanwhile, Nike’s advert follows a young girl rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in football.
The young girl is 10-year-old social media star Makena Cook, who is a mascot led by Netherlands forward Lieke Martens, the 2017 Best FIFA Women’s Player award winner, ahead of a clash with Nigeria before being taken on an "inspirational journey through football" from being hand-held in a match situation, taking selfies and more.
One of the stars featured in the advert is the most decorated women’s player of all time, Brazil’s Marta, whose nation is due some serious soul-searching over accusations of prejudice against women’s football.
You thought we were bad, Brazil doesn’t have a pro league for women and no woman in Brazil earns a living wage from playing football despite women playing organised football in the country since the 1920s.
Women’s football in Brazil has even survived through a law called the Decree Law 3199, which banned women’s participation in soccer and many other physical sports, but they have still managed to produce women’s football superstars.
So the fact they still don’t have a league for them is shocking.
The time has come for change, girls need role-models too!