Female futsal players worldwide have united to condemn Fifa’s “discriminatory treatment” in refusing to make good on a promise to launch a futsal Women’s World Cup.
In a campaign video launched by the International Women’s Futsal Players Association (AJFSF), the players condemn Fifa’s “public neglect towards women futsal players” and demand a “real commitment once and for all” to equality in the small-sided game. “We are together for the first time in history to publicly denounce the discriminatory treatment,” they say.
The statement comes on the eve of the men’s football World Cup in Qatar and weeks after the men’s national futsal teams began qualification for their 10th World Cup.
In September last year the Spain-based AJFSF sent a letter to Fifa’s president, Gianni Infantino, calling for an end to the “marginalisation” of women in the sport. Fifa officials assured the AJFSF that a World Cup was “on the table”, the Guardian understands. Fifa had committed to launching a “women’s futsal competition” as part of its first strategy for women’s football in 2018.
“We need a real commitment once and for all,” says the players’ video statement, released on Wednesday. “Gender equality will not be achieved with empty promises. If they [Fifa] didn’t want to listen to us before … they will see us now.”
Ten of the world’s best female players appear in the footage. “Year after year they promise us a World Cup,” says Italy’s captain, Ersilia D’Incecco. “Equality can’t be a promise,” adds Argentina’s Julia Paz Dupuy. They are joined by Amandinha, the Brazilian seven-times winner of best player in the world award – organised by the independent futsal planet website, not Fifa. The other leading players include: Spain’s double Uefa Euros-winning captain, Anita Luján, Iran’s goalkeeper Zahra Lotfabadi, Portugal’s Janice da Silva, Uruguay’s Fátima Villar, Nancy Loth from the Netherlands, Chikage Kichibayashi from Japan, and Ukraine’s Vika Kyslova.
“We’re really disappointed,” said Natalia Orive, president of the AJFSF, which was formed in 2010 to represent players in Spain and relaunched last week as a global voice. She told the Guardian women’s futsal was suffering from “double discrimination” within Fifa, losing out to men’s futsal and women’s 11-a-side.
“Fifa has a strategy for women’s football, gender equality and inclusion,” said Orive. “If they’re investing in women playing football, a percentage of that money should go towards futsal because we are also women and we have the right to play and opportunities to develop. The way that all women have felt abandoned inside these [Fifa] committees for many years, now they’re doing the same with us futsal women.
“We’re not trying to compete with football. We just want our own space to develop. It’s not right. It’s not fair. What are we waiting for?”
Anita Luján, the veteran Spain captain and record caps holder, told the Guardian she felt “angry, frustrated and disappointed” at Fifa’s approach. “I wish I had the answer to why our World Cup and our sport is not important to Fifa,” she said. “Being futsal, I think we are always in the shade of everything. And being a female futsal player it’s even worse.”
The indoor five-a-side sport, born in South America in the 1930s, is recognised as essential to the development of skill and game intelligence at youth level in Spain and other nations such as Brazil, Portugal, Russia and Iran, where it is the dominant game in schools and a professional sport.
Fifa took control of the sport in the 1980s after ousting the South America-based International Futsal Federation (Fifusa). A successor organisation to Fifusa, the Asociación Mundial de Futsal, runs rival competitions but is dwarfed by the Fifa game.
A Fifa spokesperson declined to comment on the accusation of “double discrimination” but confirmed that a World Cup was under consideration. “Fifa is still undergoing its consultation with confederations and stakeholders on the concept of a women’s futsal world cup within an overarching strategic approach to women’s football,” the spokesperson said.
“It’s a big, important step … there is no definitive timeline for a decision, but rather, a commitment to an elaborate consultation process.”
Uefa introduced a women’s Euros in 2019.