By Sophie Gaddes
When the U.S. women's national soccer team triumphed over Japan on July 5, about 25.4 million were watching around the globe. That kind of attention should be a sign of newfound respect for women's soccer and all those involved. But the evidence indicates otherwise.
To say that sexism exists in soccer is like saying that leaves grow on trees. The average female player's salary in the United States is about $15,000 per year, while the average for men is $155,000. Considering that women's sports generally have a smaller audience, that gap can make sense. But given the numbers from July 5, it's harder to make that case. And unfortunately, the inequalities don't stop at salaries.
Consider the unfolding dispute between José Mourinho, manager of the Chelsea club, one of the top teams in Britain's Premier League, and Eva Carneiro, Chelsea's first-team doctor and assistant medical director.
The dispute stems from an Aug. 8 match between Chelsea and Swansea. With two minutes to play, Swansea captain Ashley Williams crashed into Eden Hazard, Chelsea's forward. The referee called a foul on Williams and immediately beckoned for the medical team - which included Carneiro and Jon Fearn, the first-team physiotherapist - to enter the pitch and treat Hazard. Unsurprisingly, Fearn dashed onto the field, Carneiro hot on his heels. What was surprising was the reaction of Mourinho, who leapt forward angrily, shouting obscenities and gesturing wildly at his medical staff.
It had been a difficult game. The score was locked 2-2, and there were only 10 players left on Chelsea's side of the field, since the goalkeeper had been sent off. The moment Fearn and Carneiro stepped on the pitch, the rules dictated that Hazard would have to be taken off.
Mourinho later defended his outburst, stating that the medical team had acted incorrectly in entering the pitch and leaving the team with nine men. "Without a doubt, if you are involved in the game, you have to understand the game," he said, calling his medical staff "impulsive and naïve."
In fact, Carneiro has been a part of Chelsea's first team for four years. Also, with 90 seconds left in the game, and Chelsea poised for a free kick that Hazard was unlikely to have a large role in, Mourinho's anger was both misplaced and inappropriate. Nevertheless, Carneiro has since been banned from matches or training sessions, as well as entering the team's hotel.
It turns out, however, that she does understand the game. The Premier League Doctors' Group released a statement declaring that "a refusal to run onto the pitch would have breached the duty of care required of the medical team to their patient." Carneiro was beckoned onto the field by the referee. Her response was appropriate, and her punishment does not correspond with the performance of her duties. So the question is, why was she punished?
Carneiro - one of three women on Chelsea's 13-person medical and fitness staff - is a prime example of what happens when a woman gains a position of power usually reserved for men. Last year, on the sidelines during matches, she faced obscene chants from fans. It seems her gender controls her career. Type her name into YouTube, and the first clip is titled "Eva Carneiro Hot Chelsea Doctor." It's just a video of her doing her job.
Considering that Carneiro was only performing her duties in the match against Swansea, Mourinho's overreaction - especially his claims that she is naïve and ill-informed when he himself didn't know the rules - clearly demonstrates that some people in authority in the world of soccer are not prepared to treat women equally. It's bad enough that so few women can attain positions in the sport, but this rash and unfounded demotion indicates that Mourinho does not consider her valuable, despite a positive injury record and years of service to the team.
Mourinho has yet to apologize for his actions. Even if he does, it will be hard to take it seriously. As we know, anyone can talk a big game about equality. Following through seems to be the toughest part.