News broke earlier this week that the Irish Women’s soccer team have been forced to change in airport toilets and share tracksuits with junior teams. While this is absolutely disgraceful, it doesn’t surprise me.
Hopefully the players who came out demanding some long overdue respect have created another ‘Saipan’ moment and this leads to a complete overhaul in how the FAI treats their athletes. The fact that the junior representatives of our country on the international stage don’t have their own tracksuits is also shameful and needs to be addressed.
Last week, I was at a well-organised 5-a-side event in Lecarrow, which had a number of talented young female footballers on show. On the international stage, people like Stephanie Roche and Sue Ronan have put Ireland on the international map when it comes to women’s football. Keeping in mind that this is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, it’s an impressive map to be on.
All of this hard work is pointless, however, if our own association can’t offer support. Think of the young players who will be put off by these revelations. I’ve highlighted before in this column how vitally important an active, social hobby is for young people. What’s the point if we don’t encourage and support it?
The onus, of course, is not just on the FAI. One of the reasons women’s sport in this country doesn’t get the recognition it deserves is down to the fact that sports fans can be slow to get out and support it. Crowds bring advertising, which in turn brings national media attention, which in turn brings the suits. Unfortunately, that’s the way the modern world works.
Back to events this week and the Irish women, by taking a stand, are safeguarding women’s football for the future. Meanwhile, John Delaney and the FAI will be faced with the self-inflicted headache of bringing our international footballers back onside.