Female soccer players in Colombia denounce discrimination

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Two female players have accused the Colombian soccer federation of threatening to fire them for denouncing sexual discrimination.

Isabella Echeverri and Melissa Ortiz, who both play for Colombia’s national team, criticized the conditions of female players in Colombia in videos posted on social media.

“We have decided to be honest about the reality of soccer in our country with a series of videos that we hope boost awareness,” they wrote in a text accompanying the videos. “We love our country and we want things to change for the better for female players.”

“We feel threatened. We are not paid,” they add in the videos. “They don’t provide international flights for us. Our uniforms are old. The federation has excluded players for speaking out.”

The federation has not responded to the accusations.

In 2017, the federation and professional league Dimayor started a women’s soccer league. It will play its third season this year.

The female players want to reduce the long periods between each season and be paid enough to live off their wages.

Millonarios and Sergio Arboleda University are starting a women’s team next season. The players who join the new club will have stipends, but wages will still be low.

“The women’s league is becoming shorter and shorter. The players are working in increasingly precarious conditions,” Ortiz told local radio broadcaster La W.

Echeverri and Ortiz have posted different versions of the videos, including one in English.

“We seek visibility and to boost awareness of the reality of women’s soccer,” Echeverri said. “They only show us when we play in the World Cup or the Olympic Games.”

The message of the players comes weeks after the owner of Deportes Tolima, Gabriel Camargo, said that women’s soccer in Colombia is a “breeding ground for lesbianism” and accused female players of not behaving professionally and drinking too much alcohol.

Camargo later apologized.

“I told (Ortiz) that things can get even worse,” Echeverri said, “and that it’s time that somebody stood up and told the truth about the women’s national team in Colombia.”