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Matildas pay bad and so is booing Goodes

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(Image via matildas.footballaustralia.com.au)

The Matildas call off their tour of the United States over inadequate pay, as racist booing of Adam Goodes emerges again during the first round of the AFL finals. Lachlan Barker reports.

I am sorry to report from the off that once again the world of sport has been mired in controversy, and it’s anything but enjoyable to have to document it.

Firstly the world of Australian soccer has become involved in a pay dispute which has swept up the women’s team the Matildas.

The Matildas were last seen here in the sport section performing womanfully in the World Cup in Canada.

They made it through to the quarter-finals before losing to top flight Japan. It was a great performance from the Matildas and I definitely enjoyed watching them go round on the world’s biggest soccer stage.

However, less well known, were the sacrifices that our female soccer players put in to get to Canada.

While the men in Australia are fully professional and all they do is train and play soccer, the women receive a part-time wage at best. Thus, to train and prepare for the World Cup the members of the Matildas squad had to forgo full-time employment and family life to attend training camps and play home and away qualifying matches and all the rest of it.

Not that they complained about this at the time, but things have now come to a head with a proposed tour of the USA. This is what may be called a promotional, or "friendly", tour indicating that the matches are not for any particular tournament outcome.

The women involved while not quibbling about making sacrifices to play for their nation in the World Cup, had to say "no" to this tour as the above mentioned work and family commitments were less easy to forgo when nothing critical was on the line.

So the situation is currently that the Matildas have asked for a pay increase to make them full-time professionals. Currently the dispute is between the Professional Players Association (PFA) and the Football Federation of Australia (FFA).

Currently the Australian minimum wage is about $34k per annum, while the Matildas receive $21,000 per annum. So it doesn’t seem unreasonable that we ask again for female professionals in Australia to be paid at least the minimum wage – if not wage parity – with the men in their field.

The most recent proposal from the PFA is for tier one female players to receive $40,000 a year, with tier two players to receive $33,000. This has been rejected by the FFA as unaffordable.

To provide another comparison, however, we can look to the top female soccer nations with professional players.

In the United States, their Federation provides a base salary of US$70,000, with tier 1 players receiving US$200,000.

Minimum wage in the states is $8.25 an hour, so for a 38 hour week gives a base minimum salary of $16k per annum. Of course, in the U.S. tips form another part of, for instance, a hospitality workers income.

In Britain, the Football Association there provides a salary of £21,000 (A$40,000). Minimum wage in Britain for those 21 and older is £6.70 an hour, or £13,000 per annum.

While soccer in Australia is hardly at the level it is in these nations, we can say that Australia’s women soccer players, all of the squad, deserve to get at least the minimum wage.

And further, and more broadly, this issue is in microcosm reflective of a broader problem in Australia where women still earn less than men. Currently, the gender pay gap stands at 18.8 per cent, equating to women working full-time earning $298 a week less than men.

So we can only hope that this pay dispute is sorted quickly and fairly and the Matildas receive a fair wage for all their sacrifices that bring us so much pleasure on the sporting field.

So then, hoping to concentrate on the actual sport itself, I was again to be disappointed and with leaden heart have to report that the booing of Adam Goodes occurred again on the weekend in Western Australia.

Goodes’s team, the Sydney Swans, were playing a preliminary final against the Freemantle Dockers, eventually won by the Dockers 10-9-69 to Sydney’s 7-18-60.

However, the result was overshadowed by the outpouring of racist booing of Goodes and, once again, we are left really weeping for our country.

I have seen variously across social media some trying to build a case that this booing is not racist, but invariably those pushing the said “case” are white Australians.

So, I’ll put it out there for the comments section now, does anyone know of an Indigenous person claiming this booing of Goodes is not racist?

Please inform us if so, but in my opinion it is the worst form of racist filth, end of story.

The AFL, to their credit, asked for the booing not to occur, supported in this request by Freemantle coach Ross Lyon. However, it was to no avail.

It is sickening to see a great Australian like Goodes treated this way.

Things now move on to next week, where Sydney play North Melbourne in an elimination final. Thankfully, this is a home final for Sydney, at Stadium Australia and so we should be spared the racist booing.

However, if Sydney win they then will travel back to Western Australia to play the West Coast Eagles and, sad to say, the last time Sydney played the Eagles the booing was even worse than the recent booing in the Freemantle match.

So, Australia, we have a problem. If Sydney does indeed go on to play West Coast and loses, this will be Adam Goodes’ last ever match. If a great leader for Australia’s Indigenous peoples retires amid a storm of racist booing, it will be a black stain on our country’s character which will last a long time.

However, I would posit this somewhat hopeful case. Sydney beat North this week, then West Coast, before finally appearing in the grand final at the MCG.

There is no booing in the Grand Final and, win or lose, Adam Goodes gets to retire after playing his last match on the biggest AFL stage of all.

A leader like Goodes deserves that.

So, finally, a long way in, we can include some simple sporting results. The world of tennis has been taken up with the U.S. Open.

The women’s event saw an upset in the semi-finals, where top seed Serena Williams went down to unseeded Italian Roberta Vinci. Vinci went on to the final, where she was defeated by countrywoman Flavia Pennetta, ranked 26, 7-6, 6-2. The defeat of Williams was a shame, in one way, for those who follow records and the breaking thereof. If Williams had won this match, then the final, she would have been the first woman since Steffi Graf in 1988 to have won a grand slam, winning the four tennis majors in one year. Previous to Graf, the only other grand slam winner of the modern era was Australia’s Margaret Court in 1970.

However, it was not to be, and Vinci can be proud of making the final in a major from an unseeded position.

In the men’s, reason returned to the throne and the final was between number one seed Novak Djokovic and number two, Roger Federer. Djokovic won in four sets and is, again, a worthy winner of a grand slam tournament. This U.S. Open win is his tenth grand slam title.

Federer is in the twilight now, aged 34, yet he has still clearly got what it takes on the biggest stages. Federer has won 17 grand slam titles and he has won at all four major venues, Australia, the USA, England and France. So, though the sands are running out, it is not beyond imagining that Roger will win another title before he calls it quits.

And I’ll just ask for some leeway on word usage to squeeze in a quick bike note. This is occasioned by the women’s final in the tennis being between two Italian players.

The final grand tour event of the year, the Tour of Spain (Vuelta a España) was won by another Italian sporting star, Fabio Aru. Aru blasted the red leader’s jersey loose from Dutchman Tom Dumoulin in the penultimate mountain stage of the race. At the beginning of the stage, Dumoulin held the jersey by seven seconds from Aru, but the lithe Italian had too much horsepower in the hills and broke away to put three and a half minutes on Dumoulin, and then came home easily to win the race on the final day.

The women’s event at the Vuelta, the inaugural Madrid Challenge, was won by American Shelley Olds, defeating early favourite, and another Italian, Giorgia Bronzini second, with Dutch rider Kirsten Wild third.

So, in the end, we ask for equal pay for our female soccer players, no booing of Adam Goodes and for the next sport column to be simply recording the sporting outcomes.

Lachlan Barker blogs at cyclonecharlie88.blogspot.com.au. You can also follow him on Twitter @CycloneCharlie8.

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