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It’s been 12 years since a South American nation reached the final eight of the Women’s World Cup. Colombia has booked their place in the quarterfinals and are the second CONMEBOL team to ever do so after Brazil. | EFE

Women’s football shone at the World Cup, and so do inequalities

The Colombian Women’s Football Team achieved a feat by reaching the quarterfinals of the World Cup, but the path to achieve it has been full of discrimination, precariousness, sexual harassment and vetoes. Women have fought to enter a historically masculine place.

Por: Diego Zambrano BenavidesAugust 14, 2023

It’s been 12 years since a South American nation reached the final eight of the Women’s World Cup. Colombia has booked their place in the quarterfinals and are the second team on this side of the continent to ever do so after Brazil, who had achieved it in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011, according to data tracking done by the sports journalist known as Mister Chip.

Despite losing the match against England and not having reached the semifinals, the merit was huge. In only three participations in the World Cups to which the Colombian Women’s Team qualified, they achieved what it took the men’s team five editions, when they reached the quarterfinals in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. But their reward is not visible off the pitch.

According to a study by Women in Football, 82% of female players have faced discrimination at work, which shows the reality faced in the world by women who found their professional development in football. In Colombia, being more successful than men has not even helped them close the gap.

Although Colombia women’s national football team has won 5 titles and achieved 6 runner-up finishes, compared to the men’s team 3 titles and 3 runner-up finishes, female players representing Colombia are still considered “amateurs”. Women have achieved first place in four Bolivarian Games (2009, 2013, 2017 and 2022) and the gold medal of the 2019 Pan American Games, while men have only been on the top of the podium in the Central American Games and of the Caribbean in 1946, in the Bolivarian Games of 1951 and in the Copa América in 2001.

Also read: ¡Golazo al machismo! Corte Constitucional protege los derechos de las mujeres futbolistas

Inequality is also apparent in their earnings. According to an analysis by CNN Sport, for every dollar that men’s teams earned at the World Cup in Qatar, women’s teams earned just 25 cents at the World Cup in Australia.

When they reached the round of 16 of the Women’s World Cup, the Colombian Football Federation gave 23 tablets to the players. Apart from these gestures that are nothing but a photo op, it would be ideal that the players receive the individual prize announced by FIFA, which in the quarterfinals amounts to US$ 90,000 per player, and ensure that they have decent working conditions in their daily lives.

In 2019, journalists of La Liga Contra el Silencio reported that executives charged $600,000 pesos for female players to attend the concentrations of the national team. On top of that, they had to travel around the country without insurance, with no contract, and covering their expenses. The negligible support from national and international sports authorities, coupled with the institutional disdain for women’s football, have frustrated many of the battles for equality and are the reason behind the hostile conditions female players have been facing for years. 

The struggle for the rights of female players is about achieving equal conditions and playing in a field that has historically been dominated by men. It is about overcoming discrimination. In their attempts to dribble discrimination they have faced: discrimination in the workplace, verbal discrimination, precariousness, sexual harassment and vetoes.

For all these reasons, what we ask of Colombian football authorities is:

  • Advocate to close the pay gap between male and female players.
  • Resolutely support the women’s league and stop describing it as an “amateur” competition.
  • Ensure equality in investment and sponsorship for men’s and women’s competitions.
  • Zero tolerance against discrimination and sexual harassment, and freedom for female players to express their opinions. 

To learn more about the outlook for women’s soccer, you are welcome to read these two publications: 

English: The role of latin american constitucionalism in gender justice in women’s soccer

Spanish: Discriminación de género en el fútbol: Construir una caja de herramientas para la igualdad de género en el juego bonito



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