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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

A multi-racial U.S. squad heads to Women’s World Cup

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Women's World Cup Final - United States v Netherlands - Groupama Stadium, Lyon, France - July 7, 2019 Crystal Dunn of the U.S. in action with Netherlands' Danielle van de Donk REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

A new era is dawning for the U.S. women’s national soccer team, as the most diverse squad the program has ever produced will pursue an unprecedented third consecutive title when the World Cup kicks off this month in Australia and New Zealand.

The squad represents a major shift from its early days and even more recent USA teams that were overwhelmingly white. Trinity Rodman will make her World Cup debut alongside veteran defender Crystal Dunn on a team that features seven Black players.

“The issue is partly about economics and partly about how hard it is to eliminate stereotypes people have about who can succeed at what sports,” said Jon Solomon, editorial director of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program.

Retired USA goalkeeper Briana Scurry said, “for decades I was the only one of color on the roster that started.”

“(Now) you have players that are really making inroads and making impacts and impressions in more ways than one who are going to be there a long time because they’re very young,” she told Reuters.

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Scurry’s penalty kick save in front of 90,185 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, helped the United States win the 1999 Cup, turning the team into idols for millions of American girls, in what was seen as a turning point for women’s sports.

That squad offered little representation for girls of color. Scurry said she struggled to secure endorsement deals after her heroics, as the only openly gay player and as a Black woman

“I was always going to be authentically me. I never hid that I was gay. I just was being who I am,” said Scurry, a Hall of Famer and the host of the “Counterattack” podcast.

Scurry now sees the diverse soccer landscape she had wanted to be part of, and feels gratified that her pursuit likely provided some inspiration. “It’s awesome because now other young girls think that they can, too.”

Dunn helped the United States to its fourth overall title in 2019, but said last month she struggled growing up to feel she belonged.

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“It hasn’t been the easiest road, obviously,” Dunn told reporters. “There are moments where I felt like I needed to conform to the environment and say, ‘Okay, let me tone down who I am because I feel like there’s very few of us on this team.’”

Dunn was often the only Black starter for her country in the 2019 World Cup, then celebrated as the most diverse U.S. women’s squad.

“There’s so many more great young players out there that are more of a better mixture of what this country is,” said Scurry. “This country isn’t just white.”

YOUTH ACCESS

The increased diversity at the highest level of women’s U.S. soccer coincides with a multi-year effort to get more minority kids onto the pitch.

“It’s often difficult and takes time to widen the demographic pool of young players,” said Aspen Institute’s Solomon.

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The institute’s most recent survey found that 39% of Hispanic and 20% of white students had played soccer in high school versus only 10% of Black students.

A U.S. Soccer Foundation survey in 2008 found that even as the game experienced tremendous national growth at the youth level, large swathes of the country were being left behind.

“We developed a strategy and a business plan that focused and made a priority of increasing access and opportunity for underrepresented populations, particularly children in underserved, underrepresented communities,” U.S. Soccer Foundation CEO Ed Foster-Simeon said in an interview.

The foundation has provided more than half a million children from “under-resourced” communities with free programs, building more than 600 “mini-pitches” designed for the youth game across the country.

While minority participation has improved “quite a bit,” Foster-Simeon said, “it’s nowhere near where we want it to be.”

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The problem has not been limited to soccer.

Girls at predominantly white high schools typically see 82% of the athletic opportunities boys do, according to a Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) report last year. That figure falls to 67% in schools where students of color are the majority.

Girls of color are “short-changed” in school and club programs, said WSF research head Karen Issokson-Silver.

“Sport is a microcosm of society, so a lot of the things that we see in society, whether that’s systemic racism or archaic gender norms … then you are likely to see them in sport,” she said.

WSF’s Sports 4 Life program, founded nine years ago in conjunction with espnW – the cable network’s women’s sports branch – works to increase participation for girls of color.

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The chance to see a World Cup team with many diverse players will play a part for the next generation, said Issokson-Silver.

“When it comes to girls having an opportunity to see what’s possible for themselves, that kind of visibility, whether it’s a high school level, the collegiate level or… at the elite levels of play is monumental,” she said.

That message is not lost on the women of the 2023 U.S. national team.

“Growing up, I don’t really feel like that was something that I saw in professional soccer and on national teams,” 23-year-old defender Naomi Girma, who will make her World Cup debut, told reporters. “I feel honored to be that representation.”

At a media event last month, Dunn noted that even things like finding hair and makeup stylists who work with Black women for team events can be a challenge.

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She hopes to leave the sport in a place where those that follow “don’t have to fight for the same things.”

“I can’t hide that I’m a Black woman,” said Dunn. “And so I think for me, just the more that I step into that space and I own it has really allowed and given other women of color the green light.”

-Reuters

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Colombia 2024: Danjuma invites 32 as countdown begins to Final Tournament

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Flying Eagles, Falconets To Resume Camp On Thursday -

With just eight weeks to their first match of the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup Colombia 2024, Head Coach Chris Musa Danjuma has called up four goalkeepers, eight defenders, eight midfielders and 12 strikers to a training camp in the Federal Capital, Abuja in the first phase of preparation for the global tournament.

Team captain Oluchi Ohaegbulem is top of the list, with first-choice goalkeeper Faith Omilana, defenders Shukurat Oladipo and Comfort Folorunsho, midfielders Chinyere Kalu, Adoo Yina and Rofiat Imuran, and forwards Janet Akekoromowei, Flourish Sabastine and Aminat Bello also called.

Nigeria, a fixture at the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup finals since the tournament began as an U19 event in Canada 22 years ago, will contend with three-time winners Germany, Asian powerhouse Korea Republic and South American representatives Venezuela in group D of the competition scheduled for three Colombian cities, 31st August – 22nd September.

All the invited are expected at Serob Legacy Hotel, Wuye, Abuja on Sunday, 7th July.

ALL THE INVITED PLAYERS:

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Goalkeepers: Anderline Mgbechi (Delta Queens); Rachael Unachukwu (Nasarawa Amazons); Faith Omilana (Naija Ratels); Shukura Bakare (Nasarawa Amazons)

Defenders: Oluchi Ohaegbulem (Nasarawa Amazons); Jumoke Alani (Nasarawa Amazons); Shukurat Oladipo (FC Robo Queens); Oluwabunmi Oladeji (Naija Ratels); Folashade Adegbemile (Delta Queens); Chidera Okenwa (Delta Queens); Comfort Folorunsho (Edo Queens); Taiwo Lawal

Midfielders: Adoo Yina (Nasarawa Amazons); Olushola Shobowale (Nasarawa Amazons); Aminat Folorunsho (Rivers Angels); Chioma Olise (Edo Queens); Chinyere Kalu (Nasarawa Amazons); Joy Igbokwe (Naija Ratels); Rofiat Imuran (Stade de Reims, France); Zikora Agama (Naija Ratels)

Forwards: Delight Nwosu (Dannaz Ladies); Adaobi Okah (Remo Stars Ladies); Chiamaka Okwuchukwu (Rivers Angels); Chinaza Agoh (Delta Queens); Mary Nkpa (Heartland Queens); Chiamaka Osigwe (Edo Queens); Janet Akekoromowei (Asisat Academy); Mary Offor (Adamawa Queens); Flourish Sabastine (Stade de Reims, France); Sharon Ulumma (Heartland Queens); Aminat Bello (Otero College, USA); Reilly Adebowale (Bohemian FC, Republic of Ireland)   

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Nigeria’s Flamingos drawn against debuting hosts in FIFA U-17 World Cup

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The Flamingos, Nigeria’s U-17 women’s football team have been drawn against hosts, Dominican Republic for the finals of the Women’s U-17 World Cup holding from 16 October to 3 November in two host cities of Santo Domingo  and Santiago de los Caballeros.

 Both Nigeria and Dominican Republic are drawn in Group A along with Ecuador and New Zealand.  In Group B are Spain, USA, Korea Republic and Colombia.

Group C has  Korea DPR, Mexico, Kenya and England while those competing in Group D are  Japan , Poland, Brazil and Zambia.

The hosts will make their debut in the competition on 16 October against Ecuador in Santiago de los Caballeros, with New Zealand and Nigeria completing Group A.

Herrera, the first Dominican woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, had a special message for her compatriots taking part in the World Cup. She said: “I am the living example that you can achieve your dreams. So, keep up the good work. I am looking forward to seeing those amazing games.”

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Reigning champions Spain, meanwhile, will kick off their campaign in Group B, in which they will face USA, Korea Republic and Colombia, runners-up last time around.

“The advice to all the players that will participate here is to be confident and go live your dream. ¡Y Buena suerte!” said Flores, who took part in this tournament two years ago in India.

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Dominican Republic 2024:Flamingos land in the Dominican Republic!

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Nigeria’s U17 girls, Flamingos, have secured their ticket to the 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals to be staged in the Dominican Republic later this year, after a 2-0 defeat of their Liberian counterparts at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Friday.

Victory took the aggregate tally to 6-1 in favour of Nigeria, with extraordinary poacher Harmony Chidi setting a record of 13 goals in a qualifying series that will be difficult to equal in years to come. She had 11 goals before kick-off, but netted the two goals of the evening to take Nigeria’s total of the series to a whopping 25. Central African Republic fell by a dozen goals while Burkina Faso fell 1-7 on aggregate.

Her first came after only four minutes when she sped past the Liberian defence to toe-poke the ball beyond the flailing arms of goalkeeper Makula Konneh from a cross by Shakirat Moshood.

A goal feast was expected, but this did not happen, as Peace Effiong had a close call in the 17th and Moshood rocked the crossbar a minute after from 20 yards. Moshood also missed from close range with 10 minutes left of the first half.

In the 56th minute, Moshood blasted beyond the goalpost when faced with Konneh, but Harmony Chidi made sure of her brace seven minutes later when she lashed the ball beyond Konneh’s reach as Nigeria seized the ball from a defensive slip-up by the visitors.

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The 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals will be staged in the cities of Santiago de los Caballeros and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, 16th October – 3rd November.

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