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Female Athletes Get Paid Less, But Might Play The Best Soccer In The World

Women’s soccer is rare in Europe and South America, the widely agreed-upon cradles of the game. It is not unheard of. It is rare. As an Italian, I like telling my American friends that women’s soccer is illegal where I come from. “Yes, the police come and take you away!” I tell them to get a laugh.

I finally got my chance to attend a women’s soccer match when the world-champion U.S. Women’s National Team took on Japan in a friendly last week at Dick’s Sporting Good’s Park in Commerce City, Colorado.

Dick's Sporting Goods Park during the USWNT vs Japan matchup

The USWNT and Japan played in front of a capacity crowd of 18,000+ at Dick's Sporting Goods Park (Photo: Giorgio Ausenda |

Walking in, I quickly realize that USA versus Japan is never a friendly match. It resembles a rivalry worthy of a Buenos Aires’ derby. The stadium in Commerce City, Colorado, is full to its limits. The noise coming from the supporters is deafening. The atmosphere is that of a vibrant final. Only one thing is interestingly different: the pitch of the voices and songs coming from the stands is higher than what you would hear in Europe or South America. The stadium is filled with young girls and women who follow the National Team with fiery passion and the result is awesome. Men are there, too, but the numbers are not as one-sided as in the Old World.


Soccer is a sport where gender does not matter in the United States. The enthusiastic girls spurring on their team from the stands are part of a generation who grew up with little distinction between men and women on the soccer field. In fact, the U.S. Women National Team have outshone their male counterparts winning three World Cups. An outstanding and progressive sight.

When the game begins, I am awestruck by the athleticism of the players. The Americans run, producing an organized attack with their hair flying in the wind. The Japanese are disciplined and sturdy, fashioning shorter hair for the most part. I am quickly enthralled. The game is fast and exciting. I often find myself jumping on my feet, startling the Japanese reporters next to me.

The sportsmanship is total. There are no violent hinchas like in South America, no organized hooligans like in Europe. The audience is formed by people who simply love this sport.

For the record: the friendly game ends 3-3 and the Japanese team receive an ovation from the American supporters.

It seems like, after all, Europe and South America do have something to learn from American soccer. The ball has no gender. It is just a ball.

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