Women In Soccer Social Barriers, Central America

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Women In Soccer Social Barriers, Central America

Sources published in the past 24 months reveal that the social attitudes and barriers preventing or discouraging women in Central America from playing soccer revolve around gender discrimination, violence, and lack of support. There is evidence of gender discrimination and lack of support in Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Costa Rica, and of violence in Nicaragua.

GENDER DISCRIMINATION

Compared to men's soccer, women's soccer in Panama receives far less attention and support from the public and the media. The same can be said with Nicaragua as well, where girls playing soccer have been frowned upon or viewed with disapproval. For most men in the country, soccer was not a sport women should dabble in. Though this social perception is starting to change, women's soccer in the country still has a long way to go before it becomes fully accepted by the country's society. There is a prevailing culture of machismo, which imposes social norms and influences girls' beliefs before they even reach adolescence. Almost 30% of girls become pregnant before they turn 18, and around 50% of girls do not advance to secondary school.

In the more conservative villages of Guatemala, the Mayan villages in the country's interior, for example, soccer is often considered a sport for men. Playing soccer is a daring act if done by women. Women, especially indigenous women, have long suffered discrimination. Even successful women soccer players face discrimination. Shirley Cruz, Costa Rica's first female professional soccer player and Central America's most successful professional soccer player, used to sport short hair so she would be allowed to play with men's teams. There was a shortage of women's clubs in Costa Rica back then. There appears to be grave inequality as well when it comes to wages. In Panama, while men soccer players receive vast amounts of money, the most competent women soccer players cannot even earn a living wage.

VIOLENCE

Violence is impeding the progress of women's soccer in Nicaragua. It is political in nature, yet it has become a huge stumbling block for women in the country who want to play soccer. The protests, which began in April 2018 in response to social security cuts made by the Ortega government, have become violent, with the government responding to protests with brute force. Over 2,000 people have been arrested and over 300 people have been killed since. It is no longer safe for people, especially young girls or women, to go outside and travel even to nearby places. No one can guarantee their safety.

One concrete example of how the political violence in the country has limited women's participation in soccer is Soccer Without Borders's cancellation of some of its sessions. For safety reasons, Soccer Without Borders, a program in Nicaragua involving 170 girls and reaching a total of around 1,500 girls and women through special events, tournaments, and camps, was forced to cancel a number of sessions. It was prompted as well to stop hosting American players for cultural exchange and immersion. The drop in tourism was a blow to the program's budget, as the revenue the program raises through hosting constitutes 35% of the program's budget.

Another concrete example is CONCACAF's cancellation of the Women's Under-17 Championship in host country Nicaragua. CONCACAF, or the Confederation of North, Central American, and Carribean Association Football, made this decision in response to the political violence in the country. In a press release, it said, "CONCACAF determined that to guarantee the safety of the delegations, and all participants and fans, the cancellation will apply to all matches and events and take immediate effect."

LACK OF SUPPORT

According to an article published by Panama Today, the progress of women's soccer in Panama has been particularly slow, as support for women's soccer in the country is nearly non-existent. A professional structure is lacking, the payment structure is unclear, and there is hardly a proper league for the sport. Mainstream media does not pay much attention to the sport. Women's soccer in the country was recently described as having "existed in a state of general neglect." Lacking the support it needed, the country's national team had not figured in any CONCACAF Women's Championship between 2006 and late 2018. The team's current players are basically amateurs because they have no experience playing outside Panama. The Panamanian mainstream media and federation have long ignored the national team.

The lack of support and funding results in a vicious cycle where lesser-funded teams do not perform well and teams that do not show progress get ignored further by the federation. For women soccer players in Panama, there is little chance of becoming a full-time player unless the federation changes its stance on women's soccer and provides more support. They need to make their way to the United States if they want more opportunities to progress in the sport. This appears to be true for breakout star Yenith Bailey, Panama's goalkeeper, who is reportedly considering leaving her country to be able to train more. Speaking only Spanish may be a barrier, however.

Sources
Sources

Quotes
  • "Panamanian Women's soccer is moving at a slow pace, with a league that is almost non-existent, without the big spotlight, there is no professional structure and they do not receive the support that the male football, who attended this year's first World Cup, have."
Quotes
  • "In Nicaragua, girls did not play football. And if they attempted to, it was frowned upon. Those perceptions are beginning to change, thanks in part to the work done by Soccer Without Borders. It has helped break down other pernicious social norms, too."
  • "Nearly 30% of girls are pregnant before the age of 18, and about half never advance from primary to secondary school. The culture of machismo dictates a certain set of norms for girls, many of which are internalised before they reach adolescence. "
  • "Granada was not at the epicentre of the protests, but the programme was still impacted by the turmoil. Changes have had to be made to Soccer Without Borders' schedule: some sessions have been cancelled because it is not considered safe for girls to walk home alone at night."
Quotes
  • "Panama’s history at the highest level is even less extensive. Women’s football has been active in the country since at least 1950 when the federation invited the Costa Rican team Deportivo Femenino to play two matches in Panama City. However, without a stable league or support for its national team, women’s football has existed in a state of general neglect. "
  • "Before their appearance in the final stage of qualifying last month, the team hadn’t appeared in a Concacaf Women’s Championship since 2006. Their players all play in Panama, meaning that they are essentially amateurs."
  • "It’s hard to root against any of these women, who have endured disrespect from their federations and mainstream media. Sustained support from their respective federations has historically been a significant barrier to advancing women’s soccer in so many countries like Argentina and Panama — those still trying to break through at the international stage."
Quotes
  • "Though Panama has started a women's league, Bailey's only real chance of making it full-time in soccer is finding a pathway to the U.S. unless there's a serious focus on the women's game from the Panamanian federation."
Quotes
  • "The Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) canceled its Under-17 women’s championship on Sunday after political violence spread across the host nation Nicaragua."
  • "CONCACAF determined that to guarantee the safety of the delegations, and all participants and fans, the cancellation will apply to all matches and events and take immediate effect."
Quotes
  • "More than a score of indigenous women and girls who are members of the first female Guatemalan soccer team to suit up in their ancestral attire are striving to change preconceived notions in their homeland."
  • "The mere act of playing soccer is a daring one in the conservative Mayan villages of that Central American country's interior, where the sport has typically been restricted to men."
Quotes
  • "Shirley recalls how she would leave her hair short to pretend to be a man. This allowed her to filter between male teams and thus have the option to play football. At a time when women’s clubs were in short supply, Cruz had to open up a field to later become Costa Rica’s main reference in women’s football. "
Quotes
  • "Concacaf’s condensed, 14-day World Cup qualifying tournament is a focus group of self-fulfilling prophecies: Lesser-funded teams never show progress, so they don’t receive investment; teams never get better because their federations largely ignore them."
  • "This inequality is the root of so many problems – some of which we’ve addressed before – and it also leads to a system in which we are robbed of exposure to talented players outside of the region’s big three."