Yes. This is something that has been bothering me for a while, and I decided to post a little something on it today. For the record, this is my opinion based on following various AO twitter accounts and reading the website. This does not mean that all chapters are involved, as I do not follow every chapter’s twitter accounts/websites. This is just from what I have seen from the few that I follow, as well as stories from @TheUpstart13 about her experience with the Phoenix chapter and their views towards the women’s game.
Now, I’ve been thinking about this a lot after seeing the first USWNT Olympic qualifying match on Friday, especially in comparison to the USMNT friendly match that was played the following day. Dozens of AO members traveled to Phoenix to support the men in read, white, and blue for a meaningless game played by guys that, honestly, will most likely see little time with the national team come next year. Contrastingly, our women’s team is currently playing in a tournament that determines whether or not they get to play in this summer’s Olympic games. That is not to say that I am discounting the value of the men’s team playing in a friendly that will help the coaching staff evaluate how the team goes forward prior to World Cup Qualifying this summer. However, I find it extremely interesting that the main US Soccer supporters group advertised the crap out of the men’s game, and barely mentioned the women’s game outside of their twitter. Beyond that, when watching both games, I noticed a smattering of US fans at the women’s game in BC Place. Yes, there were a lot, but they were not concentrated in one section of the stadium as is standard for AO sections. Contrastingly, there were hundreds of AO members in attendance at the men’s game. While this could be attributed to flight costs or whether or not members have passports, I highly doubt it. I was at the Stade de France in November for the MNT match against France, and there was a good amount of AO members in the designated section. I know for a fact that there are people who fly out to as many games as possible. Another note, there is currently a post-game article on their website about the MNT match from this past Saturday, yet nothing about the 2 WNT matches that have been played in the Olympic Qualification tournament.
As I said, this is something that I have been thinking about for a while, not something that just came into my thoughts after this weekend. I perused the AO website earlier today to get more concrete information on the subject, and low and behold, I found a lot. In the months of May, June, and July 2011, there was ONE post regarding the USWNT. It was only discussing the women making it to the final of the Women’s World Cup, and urging people to head to their local chapter bar to watch the final. THE FINAL. Nothing for the games leading up to the match. More importantly, no information regarding traveling to the World Cup to support our ladies. I find this very interesting considering they are already planning on chartering a plane for the 2014 World Cup. Now, I understand that less people watch women’s soccer so there would be less interest in traveling to Germany for the tournament. However, I don’t think it would cause any trouble on their part to promote the tournament for our ladies and show support.
Beyond the World Cup, there was no mention of the USWNT’s Welcome Back series they played in the states post-WWC, or any sort of ticket deals for members mentioned on their website. I will admit, I’m not sure if this has anything to do with their relations with US Soccer, however I am going say even that is doubtful. I went to a couple San Diego AO watch parties last year (I have other problems with AO which is why I don’t interact with them more, and this topi is just another tick on the list) and overheard some of the chapter leadership comparing the women’s and men’s team, and discussing the time they organized a group trip to see the WNT play at the USD stadium about a year/year and a half ago. So again, I’m not saying that this is something ALL AO members/chapters do. But enough people fall into it where it bothers me, and I think even ruins the experience of being a US Soccer supporter. For instance, @TheUpstart13 has experience the Phoenix AO chapter COMPLETELY neglecting the WNT, even when they were in town to play a game a couple months ago. How does that even qualify as being a US SOCCER SUPPORTER? Sure, when I was at the USMNT v Costa Rica game in Sept, the AO section found the box Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe were sitting in and directed chants at them demonstrating support. But that is not enough.
One of the best things about supporting US Soccer is that we not only have a men’s team that is improving and becoming respected more on the global soccer sphere, but we also have an AMAZING women’s team. We are one of the few federations around the world that actively supports our women’s team and wants to make sure they succeed as much as the men. Because of this, I think it is our duty as fans to support both equally. I understand that not all people want to watch both (and I find it quite sad but whatever). However, I don’t think that an organized supporters group that has ties to the US Soccer federation (meaning they get discounted tickets and such) should perpetuate the gender divide. It just looks bad.
I will say that the whoever runs the twitter account for AO tries to provide equal coverage, which I like. But again, it’s not the same. They promote article and headlines of the WNT but not the way they do with the men.
Again, this is just something that has been bothering me for a while and kind of reached a peak when I saw the crowds at the WNT and MNT matches this past weekend. You don’t have to agree, and you may think that I am completely wrong. I would like responses if you do find that I am wrong, because there are obviously things then that I am overlooking. I don’t admit to seeing or knowing EVERYTHING about US soccer and its fan base, so please, if you find that I am misjudging all of this, please feel free to let me know (but be respectful).