DETROIT — The U.S. women’s soccer team is gearing up to play Haiti at 7 p.m. tomorrow at Ford Field.
The only thing is, up until last week, the opponent was supposed to be Australia. However, the Aussies’ strike against its own federation last week changed all of that.
Some fans had expressed disappointment that the opponent had changed, especially since Australia was a World Cup opponent for the U.S. this summer and Haiti has never qualified for the prestigious tournament.
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U.S. women’s coach Jill Ellis expressed some disappointment that the opponent changed in a Wednesday press conference but, at the same time, is glad that Haiti was able to prevent the even from being canceled.
“We’re very excited to be here in Detroit,” Ellis said. “We’re very much enjoying it and looking forward to the game tomorrow. We are certainly disappointed that we don’t get the chance to play Australia but, personally, very appreciative of Haiti stepping in.
“For me, the most important thing for us is getting out in front of our fans and being professional in the way we approach any game.”
The Australians are on strike over pay, accommodation and benefits with its respective federation and are looking for more respect as athletes in those respective areas.
U.S. soccer’s seasoned veteran, Abby Wambach, supports what the Australian team is trying to accomplish, noting that their are still discrepancies in compensation for U.S. women compared to the U.S. men’s soccer players.
“Part of what we were able to accomplish this summer was empowering women,” Wambach said. “What the Australian women are doing is they’re empowering themselves and they’re empowering the next generation of women coming behind them to stand up and speak up for what is right and what they think that they deserve.
“We did this many, many years ago and us, as players, are now reaping the rewards of the hard work and just put my foot down and saying, ‘We’re not going to accept this kind of treatment anymore.’ So, of course we support (Australia) and I think it is a fantastic symbolic support of themselves.”
Forward Alex Morgan also addressed the underpayment of female athletes in general and is hopeful that U.S. soccer continues to move forward in changing the trend.
“Every professional league, men’s and women’s, you have to start somewhere and you have to build on that,” Morgan said. “I think that’s what this league is doing. I think female athlete, a lot of times, are underpaid. Because I have a salary from the national team and I have money from sponsors, a lot of my teammates on my club team don’t have sponsorships so it is important for them to get a salary deserving of the work they put in. I think we’re seeing this year-in and year-out but it takes a while.
“You’re just not going to wake up and have a completely successful professional league. We’re all going to work year-by-year together to make this sustainable and professional environment for all of these athletes.”