The biggest abuse scandal in their sport is not a topic of discussion within the national football team. The Women of Orange gathered at Zeist for a training match against Norway, on Tuesday evening. Their colleagues in the United States, who appear to be victims of misconduct in large numbers, are not discussed among themselves.
Meryl van Dongen (29 years old) is following the news closely. She used to play soccer in America by herself and is very involved in the community. “I know that the highest sport demands its utmost, but it should not be at the expense of who you are as a person, your value and your body. These men should keep their tongues and their words away from women, and be women of us.”
How weak is women’s football?
“Our world is different from other sports, because football has always been a huge men’s sport. The guys have worked there for a long time. Now we get to that all of a sudden. It makes our situation different. Not necessarily more vulnerable, but it adds another dimension to the problems we face.”
Can you explain that?
“In other sports, abuse comes from striving to be the best. There, in the quest for gold, the line between pushing someone and mentally hurting someone is crossed. I’ve seen that in gymnastics, for example. We cross the line because we are women, not Necessarily because the goal is to be number one.Do you understand what I mean?
“In the world of football you see little that there is so much pressure on performance that people are forgotten. We are more and more women entering a male bastion, where men don’t have a lot of experience working with women and they suddenly have to adapt to us. This brings with it all the types of problems.
A week ago, it was announced that several coaches in the top MLS are guilty of verbal, emotional and sexual assaults on players. Last month, fifteen Spain internationals withdrew their faith in the national coach – including two teammates from Van Dongen at her club Atlético Madrid. Training methods are said to be detrimental to mental and physical health. In their home country, three Ajax players recently stated that former coach Marc Overmars would have influenced them.
Do you see a role in this area for the FIFPro Global Players Council, which you just joined?
“Believe. We may have a problem in the Netherlands, but when you hear what is happening on other continents between male staff and female players… Even minors are victims and I’m not just talking about harassment. I know stories from African countries and from the Middle East. the size of the problem.
What can you do next?
The Council meets with FIFA every month. Of course, the FIFA is completely in control. If FIFA wants to exclude a country from participating in the tournament, it has that power. So we are very close to policy makers and can report things. If we see that there is evidence in a country that a coach has touched underage girls, we will bring it up.
“It struck me a lot about the news from America. How can a coach who is fired for sexually abusive behavior be allowed to work for another team? And then I think: Oh my God, if we were just a little further. There are all kinds of authorities that can take measures to prevent that.”
I just said: We have a problem in the Netherlands. Are you referring to Ajax then?
“Yes, among other things.”
“There is a lot that could be done better. Oftentimes as a woman you still feel like a guest in the club rather than a full member. It may not be about infringing behavior, but as women we want the same opportunities, the same rights, the same possibilities as men.” Anyone born in their childhood can play football at a high level for many hours. Why is training in Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV less intense for girls?”
Does it surprise you that injustice in America is not a topic of discussion within Orange?
“Not at all. I also discuss things like this with family or friends. We know that there is a secret advisor inside the KNVB. On top of that, the Dutch national team has a healthy culture. So I understand we’re not talking about it. We’re also just women who love being on the field.” And we don’t want to spend the whole day talking about all those abuses elsewhere. But where we can help, we do.”
Abuse scandal among American football players: ‘I touch you for every wrong pass’
Abuse and misconduct was a regular occurrence at the top of American women’s football. This is the result of an independent investigation.
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