Daniela Alexandra Arias Rojas of Colombia and America de Cali celebrates victory after the FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023 Round of 16 match between Colombia and Jamaica at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on August 8, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Colombia Needs To Invest in Their Women’s Team As Much as They Do the Men’s — Here’s Why

Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The story of the Colombia women’s national team in the FIFA 2023 World Cup has been one of resilience, but also one of possibility. The South American team surprised everyone by becoming the only Latin American team to make it to the quarterfinals, and in the process proved that the thing separating women’s fútbol from the men’s game isn’t talent – it’s institutional support.

Very few women’s teams have gotten to where they are because of their federations or the programs surrounding them. In fact, women’s fútbol has managed to grow in spite of the lack of support, equipment, and money.

Nearly a third of women who played in the FIFA 2023 Women’s World Cup weren’t paid by their federations, and some reports indicate about two-thirds had to take a leave from a second job in order to represent their country. A recent study also found that women earn 25 cents to the dollar of men at the World Cup, with the history of the Women’s World Cup itself being more about players making the most of scraps than anything else.

Colombia falls under this category. 

The women’s national team reached the quarterfinals in 2023, which is as far as the men’s team has ever gotten as well. But the pay difference between the men’s and the women’s teams remains. But the narrative around both teams is clearly and heavily slanted in favor of the men’s national team. For example, a cursory Google search shows that Radamel Falcao is the country’s top scorer with 36 goals. Except Catalina Usme has 52 goals with the women’s team. Not that you would be able to easily find that information because even a Google search is predisposed toward men’s achievements.

The women of Colombia have been fighting for change for a long time. 

Thirteen months ago, before their opening qualifier game against Paraguay, the team protested with fists clenched and arms raised against the decision to scrap the domestic tournament for the second half of the year. The President of Colombia’s top division had claimed the day before that there was just no interest in the women’s game. Ironically, the statement had come just before the Copa América Femenina, which Colombia was hosting.

It isn’t a new story – support for the women’s game has been slow, even in the United States, where the women’s national team is incredibly more successful than the men. And in Colombia, almost half of the squad is now set to return home to nothing. There is, after all, no competitive league football for the rest of the year. It is, however, very hard to sell the idea that people don’t care. Not anymore and especially after this World Cup.

To give more context as to the struggles women players have had to go through, consider the fact that five years ago, there were no soccer cleats designed for women. These women were instead playing with technology designed for men’s bodies. Now, Adidas and Nike both have cleats designed specifically for women. And even thirty-two years ago, the first FIFA Women’s World Cup was seen as a gamble, with no expectations anyone would watch. 

Now the FIFA Women’s World Cup is breaking records with over 2 billion viewers. And all of this is in spite of FIFA allocating $150 million for prize money in the Women’s World Cup against $440 million for the men’s last World Cup.

At the end of the day, the women of Colombia got very far in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup while not having anywhere near the support the men’s national team has. Just picture what they could do with a federation behind them and a support system that actually treats women’s fútbol as something worth investing in. Imagine how far they could go and what they could achieve. 

Hopefully, Colombia takes this FIFA Women’s World Cup as proof that women in sports, particularly those in fútbol, are worth the investment. We already know they are. And it’s time for Colombia to catch up.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup Final between Spain and England will be played Sunday at 6:00 AM ET.