Second to None: Brazilian Star Marta

In Canada we have Christine Sinclair and in Brazil they have Marta. Marta is one of the most prolific soccer players ever to play the game. Many years ago I saw her play live in Rochester, New York in what was the Women’s Professional Soccer league. She was a beast – all muscle, strength, speed, agility and finesse. She has been named FIFA’s world player of the year 5 times, an incredible honour that only one other player in soccer has earned: Lionel Messi. Given that the 2016 Summer Olympics are being hosted in Brazil, this will be a prime, and rare opportunity for Marta and the Brazilian WNT to showcase their talent on home soil.

A few months ago when Brazil was in town slated to play Canada in 2-game exhibition series, the Toronto Star’s Dave Feschuk did a wonderful profile on Marta: “Brazilian star Marta not settling for second: The men’s game will always be first in her country, but the star of the women’s soccer team is trying to close the gap”. In the article Feschuk outlines how women’s soccer in Brazil does not have the same foundations as in other countries such as the US, which makes the accomplishments of Brazil’s WNT remarkable, and the success of Marta bittersweet.

For me, Brazil’s WNT is one of my favourites to watch simply because of their flair, creativity, skill on the ball and attacking style. It was a pleasure to watch them in June and I look forward to seeing them this month at the Olympics. I hope the Rio Olympics changes people’s perception of women’s soccer in Brazil, but I know that institutional and social changes happen very slow. Below, pictures from Canada vs Brazil Exhibition Match at BMO Field June 4, 2016.

All pictures © Cristina Murano

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Silly Reporting Distracts Everyone from Sports’ Problem with Women Athletes

This article happened in The Guardian today “Tension in the NWSL: can the league and players live together in harmony?”. The title alone is all wrong, but the whole thing completely misses the point! Women must fight for every dollar, field, broadcast and right to play sports. If the U.S. WNT, the #1 ranked soccer team in a deep field of women’s teams, find it hard to achieve equality can you even imagine how difficult it is for lesser ranked, barely funded women’s teams in other parts of the world? (See: Gender Discrimination in Soccer: U.S. WNT Stands Up for Itself, Again).

Harmony only benefits the status quo, harmony does not = justice, harmony cannot be the norm when women are still playing on turf fields. Earlier this year, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) “increased its minimum salary from $6,842 in 2015 to $7,200 in 2016. The league’s maximum salary — which applied to both domestic and international players outside of those whose salaries are subsidized by a federation — increased from $37,800 to $39,700” (The Equalizer, April 1 2016). Do these numbers astound you? They astound me. This chart, by The Atlas, will astound you even more: Minimum salaries for professional US sports players.

The numbers truly speak for themselves. The double standard is glaringly apparent. And the main concern in the above mentioned The Guardian article is if NWSL players should be using twitter or not to voice their concerns? Yowsa. Move over and be quiet buddy.

Many years ago The Walrus did an enlightening article about Christine Sinclair: “The Game Not Played – Christine Sinclair, the greatest female soccer player in the world, won’t get the career she deserves”. While some may take issue with the writer skirting around Sinclair’s sexual orientation, the article in and of itself makes the most important point, which is that she will not get the career she deserves because of sexism (and the slow investment in women’s soccer in Canada).

I will leave you with one final thing in this post, which is brought to you by SB Nation: “NWSL has survived longer than any other women’s soccer league. When do players get paid? – The ever-elusive fourth year has arrived. NWSL’s players have done their part in helping the league establish itself and start growing. Now they wait for a living wage.”  This is an article done right. It gives context, it gives hard data, it provides the issues, and it leaves no doubt that the system is not set-up to see women athletes truly succeed and be properly compensated for their dedication, talent and contribution to soccer and sports in general.

It, obviously, aggravates me to no end when mainstream media frame the issues in such a superficial, silly and lazy way. Here’s hoping articles like these become non-existent.

Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew: Thoughts, Pictures

On Saturday, May 21 myself and fifteen other friends and acquaintances were at BMO Field to see TFC take on Columbus. I figured it would be an even match and I wasn’t disappointed. There were close calls, a few breakaways, some silly defending decisions and late attempts to get the W. Ultimately it ended in a 0 – 0 draw, but it was fun times all around.

In 2012 when I watched TFC play for the first time, the quality was awful. No sense of possession play, no creativity, bad decision-making, no cohesiveness. I was left with a bad impression of Major League Soccer (MLS) from both teams as neither could produce smart, professional soccer. Fast forward to 2016 and things are so much better. TFC has a consistent coach, players who fit the culture of MLS and better defending. The upgrades to the stadium are also dynamite, seeing a grass soccer field of such calibre makes me giddy.

However, the thing I wish for more than anything is a National Women’s Soccer League expansion team in Toronto to complement the men’s side. It feels like it’s the right time especially considering one of the best players in the world – Christine Sinclair – is Canadian. I just want to see women’s soccer live with the same frequency and access as men’s … is that too much to ask?

All pictures © Cristina Murano