SAO PAULO – Sao Paulo-based Corinthians, a Brazilian female soccer club that was recently crowned champion of the Copa Libertadores, are indignant over the vast disparity between their prize money and the amount received by men for winning that same prestigious South American tournament.
“It’s $85,000 for the female champion and $12 million for the male. That’s a big difference,” 26-year-old Corinthians forward Giovanna Crivelari, who scored the first goal in her club’s 2-0 victory over Brazilian club Ferroviaria in the Oct. 28 final in Quito, said in an interview with EFE.
That discrepancy shows that the gender gap in this sport remains massive and is one of the main obstacles to the growth of women’s soccer in Brazil and throughout South America.
“We dream of having equality in soccer, both in terms of infrastructure and prize money,” said another member of the winning team, Cacau Fernandes.
By contrast, the prize money awarded at the four tennis Grand Slams in the men’s and women’s singles and doubles events is distributed equally.
In the recently concluded WTA Finals, an elite, year-end event played this year in Shenzhen, China, Australian world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty won the biggest prize-money check in the history of men’s and women’s professional tennis – $4.42 million – with her victory in Sunday’s final.
ECONOMIC GAP BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN AT THE COPA LIBERTADORES
South America’s soccer federation, Conmebol, allocated a record total of $161.9 million in prize money this year to the men’s teams taking part in the Copa Libertadores, the region’s most prestigious club competition.
For the Nov. 23 final alone (a single match in Lima pitting Brazil’s Flamengo against Argentina’s River Plate), the winner will take home $12 million and the runner-up $6 million, or a 100 percent increase over 2018.
Furthermore, each team that took part in the round-robin portion of the event received $300,000, 3.5 times more than the prize money awarded to the champion of the women’s tournament.
The total prize money for the champion and runner-up in the 2019 Copa Libertadores will be $20.4 million and $14.4 million, respectively.
The women’s event, which was played in Ecuador and involved 16 teams, also featured a record amount of prize money. Corinthians received $85,000, while second-place Ferroviaria took home $50,000, although those amounts were a far cry from the millions awarded to the men’s clubs.
Another source of indignation was the fact that the venue for this year’s Copa Libertadores women’s final was not moved from Ecuador despite violent, anti-government protests last month against austerity measures adopted by President Lenin Moreno.
By contrast the men’s final of that tournament was changed from Santiago to Lima because of the ongoing social unrest in Chile.
“It was inhumane for us to stay in a situation like that, not knowing if there would be a game or not ... I thought it was a lack of respect on Conmebol’s part to let the competition go on with the country going through a situation like that,” said Fernandes, who said she had been on the verge of pulling out of the tournament.
EFE has contacted Conmebol about the prize money gap between men and women but has not yet received a response.
BRAZIL: LATIN AMERICA’S LEADER IN WOMEN’S SOCCER
In her experience playing in Spain in 2008, 2009 and 2011, Fernandes observed a structure for women’s soccer that was completely different from that of her homeland.
“When I played there, Spanish soccer was already really good. The organization of the federations was much more advanced than in Brazil. And the support for women’s soccer was much greater. There wasn’t as much prejudice and machismo like there is here,” she said.
Crivelari said that while playing in China and South Korea she also observed a much greater level of development and investment, particularly at the grassroots level.
Yet despite all of the daily challenges in Brazil, Fernandes and Crivelari remain optimistic.
“Sao Paulo is a role model because that region’s federation makes improvements to the local league every year. The Brasileiro (Brazil’s premier women’s soccer tournament) also is evolving,” Fernandes said.
She also recalled that women’s soccer in Brazil took a big leap forward in terms of visibility when the games started to be aired on television.
A RECORD-BREAKING TEAM
The Corinthians women’s soccer club, nicknamed Meu Timão (My Great Team), was founded in 1997 but went under in 2009 due to a lack of money and sponsorship. It was then re-founded in 2016 thanks to a partnership with Gremio Osasco Audax Esporte Clube, a team based in Sao Paulo state whose women’s division had debuted in the 2015 Campeonato Paulista.
Coached by Arthur Elias, Corinthians/Audax enjoyed immediate success, winning the Copa de Brasil and then capturing the 2017 Copa Libertadores with a victory over Chile’s Colo Colo in the final.
In 2017-2018, Corinthians ended their partnership with Audax but continued their run of success by winning the Brazilian league title.
A club whose men’s division has been one of Brazil’s flagship teams, the Corinthians women’s squad is enjoying a historic season in 2019, having set a world record in August with 28 consecutive victories across all competitions, according to FIFA.
“It’s a team that doesn’t suffer much, allowing their rivals few chances on goal and creating a lot of opportunities. And that’s clear in the numbers, more than 140 goals during the season, with just 20 allowed,” Elias said.