For those few people that actually pay attention to me (and it is a few), you might have noticed I post about my Friday Night League games. For a quick summary, for about a year and a half, I have been playing in a co-ed league in Redondo Beach for the past three seasons. First season, we were completely terrible. We tied one game. The second, we got a little better. We advanced to the playoffs but were eliminated in the first round. This season though, the third time was indeed the charm.
With the help of my three brothers, my team was able to remain almost undefeated. The connections and the passes made me really learn to love the game again and as a mother of two children, being able to score during matches helped me realize I might still have it. I might not be as fast as I once was and my hips are certainly much wider (haha), but the feeling of the ball at the feet still mattered. Up until the final, I had scored every game. For the sake of leading up to the topic of misogyny, I should mention a woman’s goal is worth two points but sometimes it helped our cause on the field and while I understand the cultural implications it means, it is not as bad as what I and my female teammate faced during the match.
We won the semi-final match at 7:00 PM (where I scored a goal), but lost the final 3-0. Our league works where the semi-final and the final are played back to back. The fatigue definitely caught up to our team but there were other factors that went into the match that left me feeling terrible after the game. And also dirty.
Throughout the final match, the other team talked. We have all been exposed to “the talk.” Some of us have been guilty of it ourselves. It is a final match where a championship for moral or a possible trophy is at stake. You do what you have to do. I would have accepted that if that was what had stayed consistent throughout the entire match.
But it was not.
It was foul and disgusting.
For starters, the team came in with a lot of confidence. With it, came very eager mouths prepared to speak their minds with no regards to the consequences. This included flopping and complaining and then complaining about when the ref would mark a foul for us. Again, I know; It’s part of the game. But things began to get out of hand. It was not the typical smack-talking where it is about the performance on the field. It began to get personal. Then it began to target my teammate and I: the only women on the team.
It started subtly first.
“You sound like my ex-girlfriend...”
“Tienes a estas ninitas..” (Translation: “you have these little girls..”)
Then it started getting worse.
When I went to go speak to the referee about what was happening at halftime, it began again. I said the word “misogyny”. The boys (I dare not call them men even if they were of age) on the other team looked at me puzzled. “Do you know what that word means?” I asked.
“No, would you like to teach it to me? Can you show me please?”
Ladies know the tone. They recognize the implications. Women are servants. Made for society to serve and only serve. Things got so bad they had to switch referees. When they added the new referee, it was time to play the victim. “Both of their girls are saying they’re going to trip me during the game.” Those words never came out of my mouth.
By the second half, they had already decided. My teammate and I were toys and they were going to use us for amusement. One particular player on the other team began to get extremely close to my other female teammate. And not the close where you’re playing and running on the field. This was deliberate closeness. Where he’s circling around her to make her feel uncomfortable. There was also a moment for me as well. The ball was nowhere near me and yet when I turned to make a run, he was right next to me and I stumbled.
“I guess you’re falling for me.”
When they scored the first goal, it only validated their authority towards us. When my female teammate and I stepped up to the midfield line to kickoff the ball after the goal, this same player did not stop.
“Tiene estas viejas...” The direct translation of that is “older ladies” but in this case, it is derogatory. It is not bitch but it might as well be.
I was not a saint during this game. I made comments to him. Judged his masculinity and made one remark I should not have regarding the size of his “member.” At one point, when I went to get the ball for a corner kick, this same player intentionally tapped the ball away from me. I had had it. I pushed him and he pushed me back.
(For the record, I know that violence is NEVER EVER okay. Both from men AND women and it was wrong of me to do that. I had reached my boiling point but I did not have any right to do that to him.)
They scored a two more goals and more players got cards and they continued to talk.
I had a chance close to goal and completely missed it. This same player laughed and the other male players on his team also jeered about my sloppy performance. For a playing standpoint, I was mad at myself. I was giving them what they wanted. Women athletes are insignificant. My clumsy shot on goal--not even a shot cause it managed to completely miss my foot and went through my legs--only further proved that point.
When I went to challenge the ball, it ricocheted off both myself and sexist player B and bounced out of bounds.
“You should be careful. I don’t want to hurt you. I’m just looking out for you. You don’t need to challenge the ball.”
“I don’t need anyone looking out for me,” I told him. “Much less you.”
I did not shake their hands. I did not want more contact than I had already had from them. I felt gross.
It is not even about the loss. The loss still hurts, don’t get me wrong, but it is about so much more than that. A game is a game. But the rhetoric that continues to be made regarding co-ed leagues and the treatment with female players needs to change.
It is about the fact that I was fully-clothed, wearing a long sleeve under my jersey and jogging pants and still felt like I was exposed. It is about the feeling that no matter how many showers I take and how many times I scrub myself with soap, I will still continue to feel dirty.
My performance was sub par and my team’s was as well. Was the other team better? No. But soccer is not fair sometimes. And ugly wins get championships sometimes regardless of the team’s behavior or moral beliefs. That team and those male players would go get their trophy and their league shirts with the words “CHAMPION” on it and feel like all the actions they made this night were okay.
What happened after the game was equally as revolting. When I went to speak with the director of the referees for the league, explaining to him the harassment my teammate and I had faced throughout the match, the following responses actually came out of his mouth:
- “I didn’t hear what the other team said”
- “Sometimes the game gets excited and tension is created”
- “Those people come from a culture where what they say is harsh and cruel... what can I do”
- “If the slurs were in Spanish, unfortunately I can’t understand it...”
I am raising two boys and to still see something like still happening on soccer fields hurts me. No women in the sports industry is a stranger to it though. Day after day we are exposed to the sexism within the sport. I myself am partially involved. I do not watch women’s sports or women’s soccer as actively as I watch men’s. The hypocrisy I carry does not take away the absurdity women must face just for wanting to watch, talk about or play the sport.
But we must continue to speak to the referees, our teammates, our children and our colleagues to help clean off the stains that lie within the beautiful game.
I'd also like to dedicate this blogpost to my teammate, Jenny. You endured so much more than I did that game and held your own with double the strength than I did. I'm sorry you had to deal with that.