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  • Writer's pictureSavannah Miscik

World Cup Teams in the Fight against their Federations While on the Biggest Stage

As the Round of 16 is nearing closer in the Women’s World Cup, one notable country is not on the list: Canada. Many credit Canada’s shock group stage exit to the lack of care from their federation. However, Canada is not the only country currently disputing their federation at this tournament. Let’s take a look at the seven countries fighting their own federations and their reasons for doing so.


Canada

As the intro said, the Canadian women’s national team (CANWNT) is currently in a prolonged dispute with Canada Soccer over not only equal pay but getting paid at all. With regard to equal treatment and pay, Canada Soccer spent less on the women’s team from 2012-2019 despite the fact that they went to two World Cups and won the 2020 Olympics in that period. The men’s team had only qualified for one World Cup, their first since 1986.


Canada Women's National Team wears purple shirts as a symbol of protest in SheBelieves Cup match against the United States on Feb. 16, 2023. Photo courtesy of @canadiansoccerplayers /Instagram

Canada Soccer’s financial straits are dire, with general secretary Jason de Vos admitting that the federation could go into bankruptcy in the near future. The women’s team was not paid for their 2022 matches until March 2023.


On July 28, 2023, the CANWNT Players Association released a statement indicating they had temporarily reached equal pay with the men’s team for 2023. However, this meant sacrificing “necessary training camps” and holding additional pre-World Cup matches, which made them less prepared going into the tournament than many other teams. Canada only played four matches in 2023; the United States played eight.


Upon the team’s 2023 World Cup elimination, captain Christine Sinclair said that the abrupt exit will serve as a “wake-up call for [the] federation” and cites the lack of a women’s professional domestic league and the federation’s insufficient funding of youth programs as roadblocks to the team’s long-term success. She does not put the blame squarely on the federation but instead states that the performance on-field is a symptom of the larger funding issues.


England

The Lionesses’ victory at the 2022 Euros seemed to mark a turning point in English women’s soccer. However, talks between the team and the Football Association (FA) broke down over World Cup performance bonuses ahead of the 2023 World Cup. The FA refused to increase the bonuses past the minimum amount offered by FIFA, which is uncommon for a nation with a robust soccer infrastructure. By contrast, the US Soccer Federation offers a supplement to the FIFA bonus. That being said, talks between the Lionesses and the FA are set to resume after the tournament, and there appears to be some hope for a resolution.


Germany

Despite their success on the field, the Germans find themselves at odds with the German Football Federation (DFB). Despite a sizeable increase in attendance for their domestic league (the Frauen-Bundesliga) and domination at last year’s Euros, the DFB refuses to provide equal pay for the men’s and women’s teams. While the team has not publicly protested this status (as several other teams in the World Cup have done successfully), it is clearly a sticking point in negotiations about the team’s future.


Jamaica

Defying many pundits’ predictions, the Reggae Girlz have made it to the Round of 16 in this year’s World Cup. However, the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) did not give them sufficient money to even get on the plane. Instead, a GoFundMe was set up by player Havana Solaun’s mother to cover the costs. This is not the first time the team has been faced with problems from the JFF’s lack of funding. The Athletic reports that among other issues, Bob Marley’s family and Adidas funded a pre-World Cup training camp because the JFF did not. The Reggae Girlz and their support staff have also not been reimbursed for expenses and have paid for their own luggage when flying.

These funding issues make the Reggae Girlz’s ascent on the world stage even more impressive. The FIFA bonus for making it to the Round of 16 means that each player will make over $J9,300,000 each.


Nigeria

Nigeria’s players have been fighting the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) since the African Cup of Nations in 2022. According to The Equalizer, the players went on strike during the tournament to protest not being paid back wages. During this period, goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi made her distrust of the federation known. As retaliation, Head Coach Randy Waldrum was not allowed to call her up by the NFF themselves.


The federation also canceled a training camp before the final World Cup roster selection, so Waldrum had no opportunity to look at “bubble players” or reassess previously injured ones. This cancellation also meant that Waldrum could not look for other goalkeepers to replace Oluehi.


Waldrum had a dilemma. The NFF gave him a choice: he could bring Oluehi at the expense of assistant coach Lauren Gregg. While Waldrum was intent on bringing both to Australia and New Zealand, the federation was firm: one or the other. Due to the earlier camp cancellation, Waldrum could not select a goalkeeper he had never seen or worked with before. Therefore, he, unfortunately, had to leave a key member of his staff at home.


The NFF responded, stating that the canceled camp would have been a “waste [of] resources” and that Waldrum was “shooting his mouth off” about the alleged conditions.


Spain

A long-standing dispute between many players and Spain Head Coach Jorge Vilda became a problem for the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) after 15 of these players (nicknamed “Las 15”) simultaneously resigned from national team selection. They alleged that Vilda “significantly” impacted their “emotional state” and “health.” The RFEF countered, stating that the team needed “players committed to the project” and that only if the 15 “accept their mistake and ask for forgiveness” would they be allowed to return at all.

Vilda has persisted as Head Coach despite the 15’s protest and is currently coaching the team at the 2023 World Cup. Some of the 15 players have returned, such as Ona Batlle and Aitana Bomnatí, but not all. The RFEF have made steps to improve player conditions, such as creating a fund to ensure players’ immediate families could attend the World Cup, but Vilda is still coaching.


Zambia

This dispute is less public than some of the other ones on this list, but that does not mean that it is less important. Zambia head coach Bruce Mwape was accused of sexual misconduct ahead of the World Cup. The Guardian reports that the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) was aware of Mwape’s misconduct and willingly ignored it because of the team’s success. In fact, the report suggests that players who wanted to speak up about the situation were threatened by the federation with “punitive action” should they take their allegations public.


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