Women footballers said they felt a new sense of purpose after meeting at FIFPro’s headquarters.
American goalkeeper Hope Solo and Chelsea’s Hedvig Lindahl were among women players from 30 countries who attended a two-day conference near Amsterdam.
Lindahl of Sweden said that she sensed a change in attitude among her fellow footballers.
“We’re moving from being grateful for being able to play and now one part of us is saying it could be better, it should be better – no seriously, this should be better,” Lindahl said.
At the conference, players discussed how to develop the women’s game and other issues including medical care and contracts.
FIFPro published preliminary findings of a survey of 3,300 women that found 87% would continue leaving the game early for financial reasons or to start a family, among other reasons. Sixty-six percent of national-team players are unhappy with tournament prize money.
Solo said she has seen players quit because they couldn’t support themselves. She knew of one who had to live in her car because she couldn’t afford to rent an apartment.
“In the two decades that I have been a professional footballer I have seen great players walk away from the game,’’ Solo said.
The survey found that half of leading players are not paid by their clubs and 35% do not receive compensation for representing their national team.
“We do love the game, we do want to grow the game but at some point we have to put our foot down and say enough is enough.
“We are not going to do this for free even if it is for the pride of our country.”
“Coming here makes me realize that I am not alone,” Thais Picarte, a Brazilian goalkeeper for Santos said.
“This is a sport I have dedicated my life to, all my youth and health, to make women’s football grow.
“I want to carry on fighting for that. All of us should unite to earn the place we deserve in the world.”
Amanda Dlamini, who has played 103 times for South Africa, said the FIFPro conference was a chance “to share the challenges we face with players around the world.”
She said she was encouraged by the approach the world players’ union is taking for women’s football.
“In the pursuit of professionalizing women’s football, FIFPro is also focusing on inspiring and empowering women footballers: how to get proper education, how to prevent injuries.
“It’s a holistic overview in terms of taking care of women footballers.”
FIFPro general secretary Theo van Seggelen told delegates that the survey has “put us all on notice” about the work needed in women’s football.
“The challenge now is for us to act,” Van Seggelen said.
The full results of the survey, which is being conducted with the U.K.’s Manchester University, will be released later this year.