Returning

Here I am again.

It’s been a few months, I’ll admit, and I’ve been thinking a lot about this space and about my writing practice.

September was rough, as the stars had a lot of things in store for us. There’s also been quite a comedown from the World Cup to adjust to, as well as the leagues kicking back up. Furthermore, it can be difficult to write, especially about sports, when working through anxiety or battling depression. If you’re a Tottenham fan right now, it tends to be even worse.

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But I think that there is also a certain assurance to be found in creating that space, (for me) this space. As someone that needs to write to keep sane, and in order to understand the world around me.

I bear no illusion that much of anything I put out makes a whole lot of sense or resonates with people, but you know what? That’s okay. People, myself included, have become so entrenched in the idea that we should be able to monetise off of everything we create, to the point where the potential of money has become the primary reason to create. We’re extremely hard on ourselves too, holding ourselves to ridiculous standards. No more. I’m re-claiming this little corner of the Internet as my own.

Much like Tottenham current form, there’s not a lot of things that are vibing at the moment. But it will, and I’m just gonna have to write through it.

Sweden Next To Demand Equal Pay

“I thought that Sweden already was equal!” Around the globe, Sweden is often portrayed as the sanctuary of equality, it’s a country that everyone looks up to and there is often a feeling of Sweden, due to other countries falling short, is infallible in these areas.

You thought wrong, pal.

Yes, a lot of things are good and really advanced in the countries of the north, like societal structures regarding health care, education etc. As a young girl, there are often options to play and the players in the top women’s league do get paid in Sweden (albeit very little and they still have to have studies or a job on the side.) A historic moment came in 2018 as Norway started paying their male and female national teams the same amount of money.

But I think a lot of people still don’t understand the reason why Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg did not play for Norway at the World Cup this summer.

every generation of players has had their fights to take, regarding everything from training times, material, lost earnings, broadcasting times etc. and now salaries and compensation. Previous generations have achieved amazing results on the pitch but never received any economic compensation worth the name

Just because a lot of things might be better in the Scandinavian countries, or sound better on paper, doesn’t mean that it is actually good, or that there is no room for improvement. Yes, equal pay for the Norwegian national teams is great, and it goes a long way. But the Lyon-striker chose not to play for her country because there are still things that need to be developed, like the way that the athletes are being treated, and she felt like she was being held back in the team. Kosovare Asllani has expressed similar concerns regarding the professionality and level of the Swedish top league Damallsvenskan, and the midfielder should know, having played in both England and France. Euro 2017 silver-medalists Denmark had to go on a strike only months after having placed second at the Euros when the Danish football association failed to present them with an improved collective agreement, as the players amongst other things were asking for – you guessed it – better pay.

The Swedish women’s national team just returned from France where they claimed a bronze medal after a fantastic run in the tournament, and they were greeted by thousands of people in Gothenburg where they were all celebrating together. But once the celebrations died down, questions remained. Just a few days ago, the Swedish football association was reported to the Equality Ombudsman, accused of discriminating against the Swedish women’s national team based on gender, which was followed up two days ago by an open letter, signed by over 50 female players, former national team and elite players, that have been representing Sweden (or been close to) since the ’70s onwards. In the letter, they’re demanding equal treatment and equal pay for the same amount of work, arguing that every generation of players has had their fights to take, “regarding everything from training times, material, lost earnings, broadcasting times etc. and now salaries and compensation. Previous generations have achieved amazing results on the pitch but never received any economic compensation worth the name.” And although these players have hung up their boots, they want to continue the fight for the national team of today.

Sweden women's national team
The Swedish team gives thanks to their unwavering support. Source

They’re defusing the old argument that “the men generate more revenue than women”, simply stating that “if the men’s team now generates so much more off of their games, then that’s good for Swedish football as a whole, right?” According to the letter, the FA are pitting the compensation for the men’s against the women’s, meaning that in order to increase the compensation for the women, they would have to decrease the compensation for the men, ultimately putting the male and female players against each other.

The Swedish FA has refused to go out with any numbers regarding the contracts and the compensation that the men’s and the women’s teams are receiving, shutting down like clams and only referring to the contracts being classified. The answer received from the football governing body on the matter is simply that they perceive their division of compensation to be “fair“.

Although one could argue that the absence of numbers speaks loud and clear for them.

Looking at the way that the two Swedish teams have performed historically, the women’s team has done a lot better than the men’s team. In a mere eight World Cups (for which they’ve qualified to every single one) they’ve gotten four medals, whereas the men’s team has qualified to 12 out of 21 editions, and has three medals to show for it. And let’s not even start on the Euros, where the women have one gold medal, three silver and one bronze, and the men have won … nothing.

This is a similar story to the one of the US women’s national team, who sued their employer US Soccer Federation earlier this year over gender discrimination and then went and won their fourth World Cup (so, you know, a few more gold medals than the Swedish team but, the point is clear), further underlining how superior they are to the US men’s national team who despite this get paid a lot more.

We have yet to see what will happen in each of these cases, but one thing is clear. Equal pay might not solve all of the equality issues in the world, but it would give the patriarchy a kick in the balls.

Quotes are from the open letter published in Expressen, translated by me.

WC Countdown: Group F – Sweden

Onto the last team in the last group, which is Sweden! This is where I’m from so please excuse any potential bias. All jokes aside, this preview will wrap up my WWC Wednesdays, which I’ve taken so much pleasure in doing, and we’ll now be looking forward to an amazing month of football in France!

Sweden is a consistent contender at the World Cup, and haven’t missed a single tournament so far. They’ve always done quite well, but haven’t been very consistent. They’ve ended up with two bronze, one at the inaugural edition in China in 1991, as well as in Germany in 2011 and they’ve also hosted it once, in 1995. They struggled for good results at the last World Cup and the Euros 2017 wasn’t their year either, but they did grab a silver medal at the Olympics 2016, having beaten both the USA and Brazil on their way to the final against Germany.

Their qualification route to the World Cup was quite straightforward, and they won all of their matches except for a loss against Ukraine, but they beat Hungary, Croatia and Denmark to qualify for the tournament.

The Swedish team tends to play and exist in a very collective aura, meaning that they do not really have any players that stand out from the crowd as extraordinary, but their strength rather lies in the fact that they play well together, especially since the very unfortunate retirement of Lotta Schelin, one of the most outstanding forwards in Sweden but also in the rest of Europe. But even so, there are some cogs in the team worth mentioning. Stina Blackstenius is the young and energetic forward, with three goals in seven appearances during the qualifying, who was the top scorer in the U-19 World Cup four years ago and the only goalscorer in that quarterfinal victory against the US who also got a goal against Germany in the final. Other attacking players to keep an eye out for are Olivia Schough, Sofia Jacobsson, 21-year-old Julia Zigiotti-Olme and of course – Kosovare Asllani. Kosse, as she’s called, is the creative force that Sweden can rely on in the midfield, and she’s going to be an important source of goals.

Sweden women's national football team
Celebrating after beating Brazil at the Olympics, source

They also have a very strong defence, led by 34-year-old Nilla Fischer who still manages to perform on a consistently high level. Sweden only conceded twice in their qualifying and for her club, VFL Wolfsburg, she helped keep 15 clean sheets in the past season. Another rock in the Swedish defence is goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl. The 36-year-old is going to her fifth World Cup as the starting goalkeeper and it is thanks to her steady composure that Sweden can keep up their high-pressure playing style. She’s a good decision maker and her experience weighs very heavy here.

Peter Gerhardsson is the coach of the team since 2017 when he took over for Pia Sundhage. A former player himself, he represented several Swedish clubs playing as an attacker, before going into the role as a coach. He has previously managed several clubs, most notably BK Häcken, a male team in the top flight of Swedish football, for seven years before taking the job for the women’s national team. Gerhardsson seems to favour his team to play a 3-4-2-1, inviting that pressing style Sweden likes to play.

The Swedish squad played a few friendlies last autumn, notably beating England and Norway, but lost 0-1 to Italy. They also took part in the Algarve Cup in March, beating Switzerland but losing to Portugal and Canada which saw them end up in fourth place in the tournament. Their biggest clash in the group stages is without a doubt going to be against the US. The two teams have met on five occasions, which makes this game the most recurring one in the WC history, and Sweden won their last meeting as the two of them met in the quarterfinals of the Olympics in 2016. The Swedes beat them and Hope Solo went on a rant calling the team ‘cowards’.

That’s a wrap on the last team in the last group, and now all we have to do is wait for the whole thing to kick off! You can never count Sweden out, but undoubtedly a lot depends on what result they can get from their meeting with the Americans. Do you think the Swedes have what it takes? Let us know in the comment section!

WC Countdown: Group F – Chile

The third team out in group F is Chile, another newcomer on the biggest of the international stages.

La Roja, as the team is called, put in a good shift to qualify for the World Cup in France. They’ve been close to qualifying several times before, before finally managing to break through last year. Together with Brazil, Chile is the only team to have never missed a Copa America Femenina. They started off their qualification journey with a draw against Paraguay and Colombia, they then went on to win against Uruguay and Peru before experiencing their only loss in the tournament to eventual winners Brazil. They drew with Colombia again before then going to pull off an impressive 4-0 over Argentina, their big rivals.

In the Chile team, one of the most outstanding players is Christiane Endler, the goalkeeper and captain of the squad. Endler represents PSG in France, and with her size as well as her reflexes and overall skills, she’s a top goalkeeper and a leader on and off the pitch who can deliver in the big games.

“It has changed a lot over the last couple of years and that is really satisfying for me. It means the work we are doing now is getting the results we want, and we are maybe opening doors for new generations of women, who might have it a bit easier to achieve in sport in Chile,” Endler said to FIFA.

Chile women's national football team
Chile celebrating a goal against rivals Argentina, source

On the midfield and up the front Yanara Aedo is a big presence and with her three goals in seven games during the qualification, she’s established herself as a source of goals. Camila Saez is a defender, but that doesn’t hold her back from scoring goals and she contributed with as many goals as forward Maria Rojas during the qualification. Another name to remember is veteran Francisca Lara, who links up very well with Karen Araya on the midfield to contribute to Chile’s attack.

It’s not easy being a female football player in Chile, and fullback Fernanda Pinilla told ESPNW about some of the inequalities the players continuously face.

“Football here is a sport for men,” Pinilla said. “We live almost as rebels due to this mentality in Chile that there are certain things that men do and certain things that women do. I’ve never been on the end of verbal or physical abuse for playing football, but the institutions here have certainly discriminated against us.

there are certain things that men do and certain things that women do

“I don’t have the same training conditions as a male player, which for me amounts to discrimination. The worst equipment and most inconvenient training times are reserved for women. A lot of women’s teams don’t have a medical team working with them, looking after them. These are all forms of discrimination against female players in Chile.”

The coach of the national team is Jose Letelier, who’s been heading the team since 2015. He is a former goalkeeper himself and won the Copa Libertadores title back in 1991 with Colo-Colo. After his playing career was over, he took over the reins at his former club’s women’s side in 2010, and together they won 10 straight domestic titles and the Copa Libertadores Femenina in 2012.

Chile has been playing a few friendlies since they qualified for the tournament last year, but the results have not really been going their way and in their last few games leading up to their departure for France in these days, they’ve played (and lost) against Germany, Netherlands, Jamaica and drawn with Scotland and Colombia.

There we have a bit more information about Chile! It’s going to be difficult for this team, new on the world stage, to stand up against powerhouses like the USA and Sweden, but you never know! Do you think this team, known to pull off good results in tough games, can do it? Let us know below!

WC Countdown: Group F – Thailand

Next up in group F is no other than Thailand!

It was only back in 2015 that Thailand made it to their first World Cup, and their first run at it was not the most successful, as they had to say goodbye after the group stages. The team, also nicknamed Chaba Kaew, qualified for France after making it to the semifinals of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, where they ended up finishing fourth – their best result in 32 years. Thailand began the tournament by losing out 4-0 to China, but then they won against Jordan and the Philippines to make it through to the last four, where they tied 2-2 with Australia and only just missed out on the final after losing on penalties. In the game for the third place they came up against China again and lost, this time 3-1.

Kanjana Sungngoen is one of the most important names in the squad, having secured their qualification for the 2015 edition of the tournament with two crucial goals against Vietnam. The forward was also a very important puzzle piece for Thailand’s qualification this time around, and she contributed with three goals at the Women’s Asian Cup. Sungngoen is extremely fast, and her movements on the pitch are at times undetectable, as she seems to move without moving. Another crucial name in the squad is Rattikan Thongsombut, the midfielder with a high work rate who is used to putting in a shift on the midfield as well as scoring goals. She scored against Australia in the semifinal of the Women’s Asian Cup and her goal would’ve taken them through, had it not been for the Matildas’ 91st-minute equalizer.

Thailand women's national football team
Celebrating their qualification, source

Coach Nuengruethai Sathongwien is one of only nine female coaches going to the World Cup this summer. She has already coached the team once, leading them to their first ever appearance at a World Cup in 2015, as well as their first win in the tournament when they beat Ivory Coast 3-2. She then left the position but returned in October 2017 and has managed to repeat the feat of qualifying her team for the finals. She doesn’t seem to have a consistent style in her choice of formation but rather prefers to mix it up in the months leading to the tournament. A 4-2-3-1, as well as a 4-4-2, has seemed to be working well for the team so far.

In June last year, they played the AFF Women’s Championship, where they mopped the floor with opponents like Cambodia and Malaysia, and they even beat Australia twice. They also played the Women’s Asian Games but ended up losing all three games. In Thailand’s first time participating at the Cyprus Women’s Cup, that is a warm-up tournament in the spring ahead of the tournament involving teams from all over the world, they only managed to win against Hungary but lost out to Mexico, Italy and Nigeria. Thereafter they played friendlies against France and Belgium, which they both lost.

That’s a roundup on Thailand, the second team in group F. They’ve got quite a tough lot to go up against, with the likes of the USA and Sweden battling it out for a first place in the group. Do you believe that Thailand could upset any of these teams? Leave a comment below!

WC Countdown: Group F – USA

It is time for the last group, and we only have DAYS until the biggest tournament of the summer kicks off! Four teams remain to be reviewed, and first up in group F is no other than the USA.

This is a team and a nation used to winning. Ever since the first inaugural Women’s World Cup took place in China in 1991, which the US won, they’ve come to set the tone for what is possible to expect from this team. They’ve won three World Cups in 1991, 1999 and 2015, which is the most out of any team, they’ve won four Olympic women’s gold medals, eight CONCACAF Gold Cups as well as ten Algarve Cups. To add to this, they’ve gotten a medal in every World Cup and Olympic tournament from 1991 to 2015 (until the Olympics in Rio 2016 when they were kicked out in the quarterfinals by Sweden). That is quite a silverware collection this team has got so far, and they’ll be looking for more. They cruised through the qualification tournament, beating Mexico, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and at last Canada in the final to secure their ticket to France.

The US is known for developing star players, and this team is no exception. In a country where a lot of the resources are devoted to women’s football, the game is flourishing and a lot of talent has the possibility to come through, important key points that have allowed the US to dominate the women’s football scene for a long time. They simply invest in the game and in their players, and it’s impossible to know where to start when talking about the star players on the national team since they’ve got such depth. Do you start with Alex Morgan, the fighter striker feared by goalkeepers? Or do you start with Mallory Pugh that is such a promising young goalscorer, or why not Carli Lloyd, the veteran who will go into her fourth World Cups and became a legend after her hat trick in the WC final 2015? Or Lindsey Horan, Kelley O’Hara, Meghan Rapinoe, Christen Press or Tobin Heath? There is simply no shortage of talent in this team, especially on the attacking side.

The United States women's national soccer team
Celebrating a goal, source

Unfortunately, despite everything this team has done, they’ve still got to fight against a lot of stereotypes and unfair treatment and recently the team filed a lawsuit, a gender discrimination lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation, requesting equal pay. This feels especially frustrating considering the fact that this team is without a doubt one of the biggest nations in women’s football in 2019 who have to go up against their own boss, US Soccer, because they’re still paying the men more than women, even in a country where men’s football is very scarce and their men’s national team didn’t even qualify for the WC in 2018. Meanwhile, the women have – over the course of only seven World Cups in the women’s game – won it three times. Talk about superiority. But that doesn’t protect them from being treated unfairly by their own federation. A numbers example: in 2014 when the United States men’s team were kicked out of the World Cup in the last 16, they received nine (9) million dollars. When the women’s team won the World Cup 2015, they received two (2) million dollars.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the lawsuit, but it’s hard not to argue the fact that they had to file it at an uncomfortable time, adding more pressure to their already pressured World Cup campaign, going into the tournament as defending champions.

Jill Ellis has been in charge of the team since 2014 when she took over from Tom Sermanni (who now coaches New Zealand), and she first led them to their World Cup victory back in 2015. Ellis, who is from England, did not play any organised football until her family moved to the US when she was 15, as such a thing as football for women did not exist for girls in the 70’s, but she went on to play a lot of football. She has previously worked for different college teams and was the assistant coach for Pia Sundhage during her reign at the national team, and she has also worked with the US U-20 and U-21 previously. Ellis likes to play it very consistent with her 4-3-3 formation and has had success with it so far.

The USWNT has played a few friendlies this spring leading up to the tournament. They participated in the SheBelieves cup back in March on home soil, winning over Brazil but drawing with Japan and England, and they did not have a chance at the title. Since then they’ve played Australia, Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand and Mexico, winning against all of the teams and only conceding against the Matildas.

That’s a quick round-up on the US women’s national team. The Americans are favoured by many to grab another title and make it back-to-back cups, but first, they have to get out of their group, which can prove to be tricky with several good teams in the way. Do you think the US can do it again? Let us know in the comment section!

From Hysterical Fernando Torres Girl To Occasional Football Freakout Woman

This is a story of my transition into womanhood which, as we know in part thanks to Britney Spears and our own experiences, can be quite confusing, and it’s easy to feel ‘caught in the middle’.

I grew up as a football fan. My formative years, my teenage years, were strongly influenced by the identity of being a football fan, and it has brought me so much, but there’s also so much that I know now, that I wish I knew back then. For example, the number of times I compromised myself because I didn’t know better, because I wanted to fit in and be ‘one of the guys’, and I thought that being told that ‘you’re not like other girls’ was a good thing (ugh). Thankfully now I know better, through experience and meeting wise people I’ve realised that I want to be JUST like other girls because we are fantastic, and the term was coined in an attempt to alienate women from each other, as we’re too powerful together. I’ve learned that I’m allowed to take up space, I’m allowed to let my female self flourish also in an inherently male space, without having to conform to masculine ways. I don’t need to adopt an exterior that makes me pass as a “valid” football fan but instead, I can be the flawed, bad football fan that I am.

Everything that I knew about what it means being a girl, becoming a woman, I learned through the lens of football fandom

But all of these lessons came with a price. Everything that I knew about what it means being a girl, becoming a woman, I learned through the lens of football fandom, and occupying these male spaces on a daily basis … it was exhausting. Beautiful, but exhausting. There were so many times I felt alone, ruthlessly alone. As I’m sure most women can sign on, being a female football fan is difficult, as we encounter so many issues men simply don’t understand – I wrote about some of them here.

Emma with Torres shirt on
So proud over my first shirt

There was one man that introduced me to the world of fandom and came to define those years. This man is Fernando Torres. As I was entering my teenage years, I had Torres there accompanying me. From buying my first football top (his Spain shirt, on a trip to Greece) and plastering my room with posters of his face, the topic of Torres also acted as a great bonding topic for two shy and alone football fangirls, equipping me with a life-long friend. I had my first kiss at a football tournament I was playing abroad. I had Torres’ name on my graduation hat. Being a football fan gave me an identity, something that I, like most young people, was desperate for.

But he was actually not the one that introduced me to methodically follow football on an international club level, that was the making of Rafael Van der Vaart and that, my dear friends, is why I’m not a Liverpool or a Chelsea fan, but ended up supporting a fantastic club called Tottenham Hotspur (I definitely feel like it was meant to be).

Tottenham cap on the ready!
Reppin’ Tottenham in Madrid

You could say that Van der Vaart took over from Torres, who in many ways was a girl’s mega-crush whereas VDV brought me a level deeper. He wooed me with his fantastic technique, passion and endless grit at the World Cup 2010 and afterwards left me wanting more, so I started following his progress in his new team, and I fell hopelessly in love with Tottenham, their style of play (Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, Van der Vaart all together, I mean …) and the history of the club, and as VDV left the club, going back to his old club Hamburg SV, I followed. I started watching Bundesliga and HSV on a more regular basis, admiring the special style of play in the German top league. This ultimately led to me moving to Germany a month after finishing high school, fully immersing myself in German football and culture. Two and a half years later, as it was time for me to break toxic routes, an opportunity opened up for me in Madrid and coincidentally it was (allegedly) Torres’ last season in Atletico Madrid.

This led to me packing my bags and heading to Spain without a second thought, as it was an amazing opportunity to get to see him play on home soil, at the club that he loves the most. By now I was, although still finding myself, more comfortable in who I was, and my extreme, hysterical fangirl-self only broke out occasionally, like the time that I got to actually be face to face with him, only centimetres separating us, and we actually exchanged words! And he signed my shirt! It was the ultimate fangirl moment.

Fernando Torres signed shirt
Don’t know if you can tell that I was happy here?

In one sense my Torres-fandom came full circle the moment our eyes met. By this time I had been in a few mixed zones and already had my ‘omg-footballers-are-actually-normal-deadly-people’ moment, but it was something different locking eyes with my first ever footballing hero. It solidified a moment in time in which, looking back, something shifted in me, and I knew it was time to do something about my dreams. It was like a chain reaction; as one dream came true (me meeting Torres), my other dreams wanted to be fulfilled as well and as a result of that, things started to move slowly but surely.

When Lucas Moura scored that vital winner in the 96th minute I literally peed myself I was screaming so hard

I’m no longer hysterical over Torres (only when he posts nice things on Instagram), and I don’t sit and sob in the sofa after Tottenham has lost a Premier League game (yes, there’s actual footage of this) but there are undoubtedly moments when those strong feelings still overwhelm me and have to come out somehow. The second leg of the semifinal between Ajax – Tottenham was certainly one of those times. When Lucas Moura scored that vital winner in the 96th minute I literally peed myself I was screaming so hard, and the redness in my face was at a dangerously high level. But none of that mattered because my team were going through to the Champions League final for the first time! In Madrid, on June 1st another circle will close, as I’ve been blessed to see my team work so hard throughout the season and fulfil every Spurs fan’s dream, and I’ll be watching, ready to freak out no matter how it goes and continue to chase those dreams.