France’s talismanic captain Wendie Renard has announced that she will not participate in this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, which is being held in Australia and New Zealand between July 20th to August 20th.
Renard, who plays for Olympique Lyonnais, has made a massive 142 appearances for Les Bleues and is regarded as the best defender of her generation. Yesterday she shared on social media, “I love France more than anything, I am not perfect, far from it, but I can no longer support the current system, which is far from the requirements of the highest level.”
While this news is massive it also comes as no surprise, as it follows Spain and Canada’s public battle for equality and to be taken seriously by their respective football federations.
In Spain, a large number of high profile players, including Mapi Leon, Claudia Pina, Aitana Bonmati, Ona Batlle and Leila Ouahabi, have made themselves unavailable for selection after voicing dissatisfaction with team selections, tactics, and training sessions, also citing a negative atmosphere within the team. While coach Jorge Vilda is at the helm of the national team this situation is unlikely to be resolved, especially worrying considering that we have entered a World Cup year.
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RSFF) responded with a statement backing Vilda and both insist that the players involved will not be selected again unless they apologise to the manager.
In Canada, the national team publicly shared their intention to strike, releasing a statement raising concerns about the federation, Canada Soccer, and their ability to fairly govern the men’s and women’s national teams.
Chelsea midfielder shared on her Instagram, “Both women’s and men’s national programs have received significant budget cuts in 2023, which: affects our ability to properly prepare for the upcoming Women’s World Cup (and) starves our youth programs of funding.
“We are not asking for money that does not exist in our organization. We are asking for (1) the same opportunity to perform and (2) the necessary changes within the organization to ensure financial sustainability moving forward, ultimately supporting both the senior national teams and youth development.”
The Canadian strike was averted on the eve of the She Believes Cup, with public stances of solidarity before each match, most notably before their opening match with neighbours the United States, who have famously been battling for equality with their own federation for years.
Support for this stance has been loud throughout the women’s game. Megan Rapinoe said, “We’re talking about the Olympic champions here…to have their federation meet them this way after winning a world championship is just fucking wild to me. We’re all with them all the time. The fans should have the same energy.”
Players involved in international football over the recent break wore purple in support of the Canadian’s stance.
We’ve known for a long time that there are equalities within our domestic club game and even today the majority of clubs within the country are still failing to fairly integrate their women’s teams into their set up. To see the same happening at international level and involving the biggest names in world football is disheartening. However, to see the likes of Renard stand up to their Federations is empowering and provides me with hope that change will happen, whether it will happen soon I have my doubts.
In the case of Les Bleues, teammates Marie-Antoinette Katoto and Kadidiatou Diani quickly followed suit and stated their intention to boycott the competition.
Renard went on to state, “It is a sad day but necessary to preserve my mental health. It is with a heavy heart that I come to inform you of my decision to step back from the French team. Unfortunately, I will not be playing in this World Cup under such conditions. My face may hide the pain but my heart is suffering … and I don’t want to suffer any more.”
In response to the trio’s admission, the French Football Federation (FFF) released a statement, “The FFF has taken note of the declarations of Renard, Diani and Katoto. Its executive committee, which will meet on 28 February, will address the issue on that occasion.”
Their closing statement infuriates me, “The FFF would like to remind that no individual is above the Équipe de France institution.” Like the RSFF, the FFF appear to be missing the point of all of this and instead of listening to their player’s concerns they are closing ranks and going on the attack.
Ada Hegerberg’s absence from the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup was noticed by all and the last thing supporters want is for the world’s biggest stars to be absent from the game’s biggest competition again.
I am hopeful that the brave stance of the aforementioned players can lead to change, however, I fully expect more players to raise their hands and challenge inequality within their own federation. These players are demanding respect for their ability, their achievements and to be provided with the resources to give them every chance of realising their potential.
I am sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear about these issues over the coming days, weeks and months.