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Women footballers in Colombia revolt over mistreatment

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(Reuters) – Football players with the Colombian women’s team have hit out at discrimination by their national association in a move that once again highlights the inferior treatment given to women’s football.

The players said they have been treated as second class citizens for years but decided to speak out after authorities opted to withhold their $20 a day stipend and replace the female league with a semi-professional under-23 competition.

“We lack a solid base and an infrastructure that has our backs and gives us respect,” captain Natalia Gaitan said.

The outrage came the same week the US women’s team sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for the same pay and treatment as their male counterparts.

All 28 members of the United States squad were named as plaintiffs in federal court in Los Angeles in a lawsuit that includes complaints about wages and nearly every other aspect of their working conditions.

Among the list of complaints made by the Colombians is that the football association still owes some players money from the 2015 World Cup, has failed to provide players with health insurance, does not pay for international flights and sometimes even obliges them to pay for their own jerseys.

The national team has not played since last July and has on at least two occasions gone more than a year without any training camps.

One player, Daniela Montoya, produced audio clips purportedly showing the vice president of the Colombian FA kept her out of the Rio Olympic squad because she complained about the poor treatment.

The Colombians qualified for the World Cup in 2015 and the Rio Olympics in 2016 but their recent inaction has cost them and they have not qualified either for this year’s World Cup in France in June or the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The women quickly won the support of their better-known counterparts in the male squad, with Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez among those expressing their support.

“We reject and condemn any act that threatens a woman physically, mentally or emotionally,” the men’s team said in a statement.

“We support our companions on the Colombian women’s team. Women’s football must continue to grow and develop at all levels with all the (necessary) guarantees, and for that the directors and the players will always have all our support.”

In a statement, FIFA and the South American Football Confederation said they “energetically condemned” any abuse or discrimination.

(Reporting by Andrew Downie; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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