Women's soccer overshadowed in Brazil

Even at elite club level, Brazil's female soccer players feel they're marginalized, forced to play on inferior fields and to buy their own gear.
Camilla Lazoski and Fernanda McComb hone their soccer skills at Ipanema Beach. They say women's soccer isn't benefiting from the World Cup as much as it should. (Kim Brunhuber/CBC)

Watching 18-year-old Brazilians Camilla Lazoski and Fernanda McComb play keep-up on the beach, you get the impression the only way the ball will hit the sand is if one of them just walks away. When the two of them juggle, the biggest challenge isn't gravity, it's distraction.

A young man wants to get in on the game. Pretty soon the ball, along with his pride, is floating off in the ocean. He retrieves the ball, kicks it back to them and goes on his way, shaking his head.

The two girls usually play near their home near Ipanema, on a spot on the beach with goalposts. But they're often kicked off the pitch when the men want to play.

"We love soccer. It's part of our lives," Lazoski says. "There is not much space for us but we try to play every day. Here in Brazil they still think the girls cannot play. They think soccer is just for men, so when women play it's not like a lady or like a female should be."

Not just sexism

McComb and Lazoski say they face more than just sexist attitudes. Even at elite club level, they feel they're marginalized, forced to play on inferior fields and to buy their own gear. Unlike their male friends.

"They get cleats and shin guards and uniforms," McComb says. "We have to pay for everything and we don't have the opportunities they have. So it's hard to play and have a soccer dream."

That's why she's leaving Brazil. McComb has family in California, so on a recent visit she tried out for the Fresno State college team and got a scholarship. It's an opportunity she regrets none of her teammates will have: to develop their game in a highly organized, well funded and competitive university program.

"They (American girls) are big, do more weightlifting when they're young and stuff, so they are a lot more strong," McComb says.

World Cup money won't help women's soccer

Both feel the billions spent on the World Cup could have been better spent on other things. Health and education of course. But also on infrastructure to help women's soccer; not just for those who make it to the national program, but for amateur university-age girls like her team-mate Lazoski.

"U.S. and Germany, they invest a lot more than Brazil in women's soccer," McComb says. "We have good players but we don't have investment for them. Here when you play, you have to stop in order to study."

So next month, McComb will leave for California. And Lazoski will play on the pitch on the beach. When it's free and the men aren't using it.

Kim Brunhuber is a Senior Reporter for CBC News, in Brazil for the World Cup.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.