The International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro) is taking the Cyprus Football Association (CFA) to task over its intention to discipline members of the women’s national team who stood up for gender equality.
FIFPro sent a letter to the CFA asking it to waive any disciplinary procedures against female players who posed for a picture with the logo of European governing body UEFA’s gender equality campaign drawn on the palms of their hands.
The Cypriot women’s national team gathered in the dressing room for the protest photo before the kick-off in last week’s European championship qualifier away to Finland.
The CFA viewed the women’s protest as an act which “has left the association exposed” and is looking into taking disciplinary measures for “unethical behaviour”.
FIFPro said the members of the Cyprus National Team have their full support.
“Contrary to what the football association seems to imply, these players did not violate any rules or regulations. They were simply asked to be treated as equal with their male counterparts, with reference to a UEFA campaign (namely the Equal Game campaign)”.
The players of the national team demand they be treated equal terms as the men’s national team.
Former Cyprus international, Georgia Pittaka said female players receive a daily allowance of €20, a fraction of what the men receive. “The players were away for five days and received €100 each”.
Meanwhile, the Cyprus Footballers Association (PASP) has confirmed that compensation paid to women players is just 15% of what better-paid men footballers receive.
Talking to the Financial Mirror, Pittaka, who is in close contact with the team, said all that the women footballers had done was to demand that they are treated equally as their male counterparts.
“They seem to be upset with the message that our national women tried to get across. The CFA has had us filming spots regarding equal treatment of women and men footballers. This reaction takes us back a 100 years,” said Pittaka.
She added that the women playing for the national team are not professional and have to leave their jobs to play for the team in away games.
“Women footballers in Cyprus do not make their living from football. On the contrary, they make immense sacrifices for the game. They choose jobs that will allow them to train and play games, missing out on career opportunities. It’s all for the love of the game.”
Pittaka argued that the players are simply asking is to be respected for the hard work they are putting into the game noting that the CFA’s unnecessary reaction comes at a time when young girls are starting to be more interested in the game.
Cyprus women wear men’s kit
She said that women in the national team are still having to wear men’s kits and for some reason, they are forbidden to exchange shirts at the end of the games with their opponents, a common practice in men’s games.
“During the last few years, parents have become more open-minded about letting their young daughters play a sport that was considered to be a man’s game. This reaction certainly will not help build up interest in the game”.
She said a lot has been achieved over the past few years in women’s football in Cyprus and called on the CFA not to tear down what has been built.
The CFA feels the players of the national team disrespected the association by acting outside the protocol agreed with the Finnish Federation. It believes they are being manipulated by Spyros Neofytides, the President of PASP.
It said that while the players “have the right to fight for their rights, the reason behind them not being rewarded equally is the market”.
In comments to Active Radio, CFA’s spokesperson Constantinos Shiamboullis said “the issue is not their gender but the market and the fact that they are amateurs. The national Futsal team receive more or less the same”.
He suggested there was nothing untoward about women of the national team receiving less than the men.
“Do Apollon Ladies get paid the same as the players of Apollonas (men’s team)?..we have lost sight of the ball with the ‘equal game’ campaign”.
In comments to the Financial Mirror, a PASP representative said it is the CFA that has lost sight of the ball, as the matter does not involve being equally paid by their teams but being equally compensated for representing their country in international fixtures.
“Is a male MP compensated more for official trips? Does a female Member of the European Parliament receive less travel expenses than her male counterparts?” said the PASP official.
He said Cypriot players were not the only footballers to promote the equal game campaign by taking photos with the logo of the campaign.
Just a few days ago the national team of Greece posted a photo with the players posing with the equal game logo on their palms.
The PASP official said the women of the national team chose to make their statement with the photo just before the game with Finland for a specific reason.
“Just a month ago the Finnish Football Federation had granted equal pay for women and men participating in the country’s national teams”.
Football Federation Australia has just approved a collective bargaining agreement which offers the ‘Matildas’, the national women’s team, the same pay and conditions as the men in the ‘Socceroos’.
“For a long time, this seemed like a pipedream. Critics used to argue that equal pay for sports players was a nice idea but practically impossible. Those who demanded equal pay for women, they said, were putting sentiment before the hard commercial reality,” said the PASP official.
He argued that even the hard commercial reality argument put forward by the CFA and other critics is failing to hold water as women's football is gaining popularity around the globe.
He said that this year's Women’s World Cup in France saw a record television audience and spectators at the grounds.
“USA’s women’s team is bringing more people to the stadia and generating more profit than the men’s national team.”
Players from the Cyprus men’s national team have come out in support of their female counterparts by joining in the ‘equal game’ campaign by posting selfies on social media with the logo drawn on the palms of their hands.