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Women’s player sells personal possessions to play upcoming season

Nov 4, 2013, 7:45 PM EDT

800px-Melissa_Barbieri

Newsflash: Women’s soccer players make squat. There are a few Alex Morgans and Hope Solos in the world, but most women’s “professionals” are threatening their nations’ poverty lines. A lot of players during the last NWSL campaign made less than five-figures during the 22-game season.

From Australian, where the W-League season is about to start, we get another reminder of those realities. Melissa Barbieri, well-known Australian international goalkeeper, does not have a contract with her national federation right now, having spent more than a year off the field with the birth of her first child. Without the corresponding subsidies, the 80-time international won’t make enough money to support herself during the upcoming season.

Intent on coming back, the 33-year-old is selling personal memorabilia to fund her season. Photos, jerseys, whatever trinkets she has from her soccer career, Barieri’s auctioning off with hopes of covering her expenses.

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

”’I decided that $5000 would cover me after doing a budget and decided that anything over $5000, I’d give it to my teammates,” Barbieri said. ”You’d find that every club has it’s own way of running, there’s a salary cap but there’s no floor. You’ll find that a player earns $10,000 in a team and another earns nothing.”

It’s similar in the U.S.’s National Women’s Soccer League. The league has a salary cap, and a good chunk of each team’s players have their salaries covered by the U.S., Canadian, and Mexico. But while some players could be earning over $25,000 for a season’s work, others will make around $6,000, often prorated.

Where there’s no salary cap, the situation’s the same. Most professional players are essential semi-pros, not making enough money to sustain more than a college student’s lifestyle.

As Barbieri reminds us, the issue goes beyond women’s soccer.

”It’s not just the W-League, it’s women’s sport and we need something to happen in Australia for women’s sport,” Barbieri said. ”We’ve got some great athletes out there but, unfortunately, a lot of them are struggling. It’s been frustrating for the last 12 years, it’s nothing new, I just came up with a new way of helping myself out. I was thinking of things that I could do and I’m like why not fund raise?”

She’s getting some help. Socceroos veteran Archie Thompson is chipping in, as is national team goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak, meaning she’s likely to eclipse her goal. When she does, other Adelaide United players will benefit.

”A lot of girls are washing windows to make ends meet,” Barbieri said. ”I commend them for changing states to find a team because a lot of teams have Matildas and there’s very little room for them if they’re not the top young players. Coming to Adelaide has been a real testament to their courage and basically their guts.”

There’s much more in Dominic Rossi’s piece at the Sydney Morning Herald (I’ve swiped enough of his quotes), but Barbieri’s story is a reminder of what many soccer players go through across the world. If you’re lucky, you have one job that can maintain you for the year, but a lot of women’s players will go from one league to another, spending time on both sides of the globe to sustain their careers. In each place, they’re spending to their limits on a month-by-month basis, where the best case scenario is getting another 10-15 years out of a game most have to give up after high school.

Should these players get paid more? It’s hard to say ‘yes’ when almost every women’s professional team loses money. There’s a conversation to be had about bias and opportunity, but there’s also the present day reality: There’s only so much to go around.

For a player like Barbieri, it’s worth it to sell some of her past to pay for her present. But there are a lot of other players who don’t have the option of doing so. That’s the reality of women’s professional soccer.

  1. carlagoestomd - Nov 4, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    Reblogged this on On the Pitch and commented:
    This is eye-opening and amazing. I can’t imagine having a job I love so much, I’d sell personal belongings to do.

  2. dfstell - Nov 4, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    I admire her dedication. I’m not sure I agree with the sentiments that “something should be done”. All professional sports are is a way to divert money from fans to the players. The market works out.

    I DO wonder if there is a chance for athletes like her to go straight to the fans via something like Kickstarter. Come up with some rewards (like autographed pictures) and let the fans fund you $50 at a time.

    • mlsconvert88888 - Nov 5, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      Dude, you may be onto something with that Kickstarter idea.

  3. mvktr2 - Nov 5, 2013 at 1:18 AM

    I love the market. It allows people the freedom to make decisions and pursue dreams. No one can’t escape economic realities as the corporatist or socialist promise, but one can always pursue self-determinism and my friend is a privilege.

  4. optimysticapparel - Nov 5, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    Such a shame, I come from a background that revolves around surfing and soccer. And it’s surprising to see that female surfers in the world are getting treated better than this! There’s been a push in the ASP (surfing) world tour for the past 5 or so years that has seen the prize money for women’s contests going up and up. Obviously it’s not at the men’s level yet, but for a professional athlete to struggle to earn $25,000 in a year is shocking. At least the men’s side of the surfing tour supports and promotes the women’s side, whereas, outside of the US it seems the rest of the world does not care about women’s football associations. And even the US doesn’t do nearly as much as it should. Schedule some NWSL / MLS double headers or something!

  5. talgrath - Nov 5, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    I think that eventually women’s soccer will catch on, but right now it’s hard to just keep the leagues afloat. There’s not enough talent (remember, an awful lot of countries still have stigmas or outright laws against playing soccer/wearing soccer uniforms for women) out there to have a lot of successful leagues and have the same level of competition as the men’s leagues. There’s also the factor of overcoming stereotypes, as sad as it is, some footballs fans still believe only men can play the game well.

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