Women’s Football – 500 US Dollars
500 US DOLLARS
While the women’s game is still fighting to earn a reputation in Chile, 9,600 kilometres further east it has long since established itself. In New Zealand, football is the most popular sport among girls, with one player for every two boys at junior level. Out of a population of just over four million, there are already 35,000 women footballers and the numbers are still rising.
Following Australia’s move from the Oceanian to the Asian confederation, New Zealand are virtual certainties to qualify for the finals of FIFA competitions, an opportunity New Zealand Football (NZF) is attempting to exploit to the full. Under chief executive officer Graham Seatter and head of women’s football Michele Cox, the women’s game has witnessed an enormous improvement. The NZF now runs four national teams (U-14, U-17, U-20 and the senior side) and organises a range of competitions, leagues, talent trials and courses. Now the aim is to establish the women’s game with the government, sponsors, the media and the NZF with the help of the U-17 World Cup next year.
At the Corn-Unity seminar in June, held just a few days before the seminar in Chile, the nation’s enthusiasm for women’s football was palpable. Even Prime Minister Helen Clark attended in person, pointing out the importance of the women’s game in New Zealand in her opening speech. OFC President Reynald Temarii also emphasised the social value of the game. The Com-Unity seminar has already had an impact, as the new programme on women’s football that is shown on New Zealand television every two weeks goes to show.
Although the popularity of the women’s game in New Zealand and in Chile is impressive, it is nothing compared with Germany and the US. In the US alone, the 1999 Women’s World Cup final was watched by 40 million people, as Brandi Chastain, who won the World Cup with the US in 1991 and 1999 and now works as a women’s football development worker, told an attentive audience in Auckland.
Nevertheless, this status had to be fought for, even in the US. As recently as 1991, winning the World Cup earned the players a bonus of just 500 dollars, added Chastain, whose spot kick in the 1999 final won the penalty shootout for the US against the People’s Republic of China. Some professionals would not even get out of bed for that.
The figures presented by Doris Fitschen, a women’s international with 144 caps to her name who today works in marketing at the German football association (DFB), were also impressive. More than 955,000 women players are now registered with the DFB, and there are some 6,300 girls’ teams nationwide. Surveys have revealed that half of the 82 million Germans are interested in women’s football. International matches are broadcast live on television, as are key games contested by top European clubs Turbine Potsdam and FFC Frankfurt. That five people at the DFB concentrate solely on the women’s game – a figure that is set to rise to eight – is equally impressive and goes some way to explaining some of the major German successes in recent years.