Why 13 really is unlucky for American women

June 20, 2019 - 07:40
Sukanya Chor Charoenying may be only 31 years old but she is already a world record holder. And it will take some doing for her to lose her prize.


The USA women’s team celebrate their fifth goal, or maybe it was their eighth. Or twelfth. — AFP Photo

By Paul Kennedy

Sukanya Chor Charoenying may be only 31 years old but she is already a world record holder. And it will take some doing for her to lose her prize.

Sadly for Sukanya it is a world record she neither wanted nor will ever boast about. It’s unlikely you’ll find her dining out on such a global achievement and the quicker someone beats her achievement and takes away said world record, the sooner she will breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Sukanya Chor Charoenying is the goalkeeper for the Thailand national women’s football team and she holds the record for conceding the most ever goals in a single game during a World Cup tournament.

It was 13 in all last week at the hands of a ruthless and rampant USA team that showed little mercy and, in some quarters, have been criticised for not knowing when to stop.

But I’m not really seeing a problem here. Sure, Sukanya may be feeling a little down but I’m sure there’s a bevy of advertising agencies hovering in Thailand waiting to sign her up.

As for the USA team, favourites to lift the prize, well they just did what they are paid to do, and that is where the problem lies.

If you are a professional footballer, scoring in the World Cup finals is what dreams are made of. Each American player who bagged a goal – for the record seven did with Alex Morgan grabbing five of them – fulfilled their childhood dreams.

But what the emphatic win has also done is raise the ugly issue of gender inequality. The women’s team has won the World Cup three times, compared to the men who haven’t, and probably never will, win the competition.

Their best ever finish was third, in 1930.

Yet despite the fact that the men’s team is nothing short of bang average, below average in fact, they are paid a huge amount more than their successful female counterparts.

In March this year, every member of the U.S. women's team filed a lawsuit against the soccer federation for gender discrimination.

It stipulates that currently, if each team played and won 20 exhibition games in a year, “female WNT players would earn a maximum of $99,000 or $4,950 per game, while similarly situated male MNT players would earn an average of $263,320 or $13,166 per game."

Break that down and effectively the women earn just 38 per cent of what the men do. And it seems it is not just America where the women earn considerably less than the men playing football at the international level.

This year’s Women's World Cup in France sees a total prize pot of around US$30 million for all 24 teams with the winners, probably the US, walking away with a total of $4 million.

That may be double what was on offer in the last tournament but it pales into insignificance compared to the men. In 2018 the total prize fund for the World Cup was, wait for it, $400 million.

So you can understand the women being a little miffed to say the least. They are the current defending champions of the biggest prize in women’s world football and the men didn’t even qualify for the last World Cup.

This problem is nothing new.

In 1996, American soccer authorities promised bonuses to the women’s team but only if it won the gold medal in that year’s Olympics, but not a silver or bronze.

The head of the US soccer federation said at the time: “We cannot reward mediocrity.”

Meanwhile the men’s team in that particular Olympics were given a bonus for each match they won. For the record they won one; the women’s team secured gold.

If the men played the women I’d like to see who would win. Sure, physically speaking the men’s team is far superior and should overcome the ladies but in their own categories it is the women who are much better.

Sukanya Chor Charoenying is probably not feeling her best right now, but if the powers that be in world football do finally take their fingers out of their backsides and pay female athletes what they deserve them maybe, just maybe Sukanya might feel that little bit better. — VNS