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April 11, 2016 — Two teams in parallel

This past week, the U.S. women’s national soccer team played Colombia in a pair of friendlies in East Hartford, Conn. and Chester, Pa.

The two women’s teams are both embroiled in verbal and even legal battles with their national governing bodies over money. In both countries, the men’s national teams are paid well more than the women are.

If you read this blog entry, you know what the problem is in the American camp. But the problems are relative; Colombia’s women have not received any money — salary, bonus money from last year’s World Cup finish — in four months. Indeed, aside from per diem money, the Colombian women receive nothing.

That’s right. Nothing.

And this is a Colombia side which beat France, the No. 3 team in the world, last summer. It is from a nation that sees soccer as a national passion, and allowed drug lords to finance teams in order to win tournaments such as the Copa Libertadores.

It’s been more than 20 years since Colombian soccer hopes peaked with the 1989 Athletico Nacional club that won the Libertadores (South America’s version of the UEFA Champions’ League), then with the rise of players like Carlos Valderrama, the mainstay of a men’s national team which was supposed to contend for the 1994 World Cup.

The women are getting more currency in South America, however. A women’s Copa Libertadores championship has been run since 2009, with a Colombian team finishing runner-up in 2013. But the majority of Colombia’s senior players are overseas, either in Europe or North America.

I’m hoping that the Americans’ EEOC action will spur Colombia and other nations to become activists for their own interests, and will receive better pay and working conditions. It’s stunning to me how inequitable the pay is in Colombia, and it makes the Americans millionaires by comparison.

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