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Is the W-League ready for its first transgender player?

With international transgender athletes the current focus of protests by some female competitors, who are calling for a levelling of the playing field, it is likely that the W-League and FFA will at some stage come face to face with that dilemma.

Domestically, we have already seen the complexities of the issue, with Victorian transgender AFL player Hannah Mouncey denied entry into the 2018 AFLW pre-season draft. Mouncey was deemed eligible to play at state level but not in the highest tier of the game, where one would have thought that the competition was more able to combat her size and strength.

The decision of the powers at be was to stand and Mouncey’s AFLW career remains stalled indefinitely, despite many claiming that the real issues behind such matters are in fact human rights based and not merely an example of discriminatory exclusion.

To suggest there is a simplistic solution to the registration of a transgender athlete into a women’s competition is folly. However, should the FFA sit on its hands and not prepare for the inevitable, it will only be seen in the long term to have been reactionary.

I had the privilege of meeting a young transgender woman from Sydney’s west last Monday to discuss her football journey. In respect to her and according to the conditions she set out quite clearly in agreeing to meet, her identity will be protected throughout this article.

Perhaps that wish on her behalf says all there is to say about the modern challenge of being a transgender athlete and desperately wanting to continue to compete without drawing the judgemental eyes of many.

The young woman seemed powerful, courageous, intelligent and confident as we sat discreetly in a small café within a large shopping complex. No one would have noticed us, her appearance obviously feminine and mine not noteworthy.

She spoke of having played football quite successfully as a young boy and then feeling as though she was required to slip from the face of the earth, as she undertook the transformation from male to female.

Previous team mates, coaches and other parents consistently inquired why a young boy had thrown away his enjoyment of the game and would no longer be competing in junior competition. The player felt she was living a lie within her own skin and now, more lies were required. A rumour was circulated that her interest in the game had waned at the expense of another sport.

Nothing could in fact have been further from the truth. Her passion for football burned as strongly as ever and after 18 months, a new name and a more supportive school environment, the complete social and physical transformation was complete.

Depression and isolation became contentedness and connectedness, fear turned to freedom. Yet sadly, football remained absent.

Sporting governing bodies all around the world have been quick to formulate policies of inclusion.

Those policies are somewhat universal and protect the rights of all wishing to compete. Whether it be religion, race, sexuality, gender, ability, age or nationality, Australian football promotes its policy of inclusion consistently and well.

That policy is entitled the National Member Protection Policy (June 2016). It is a well-crafted document that categorically states in Section 5.6 under the sub-heading Gender that,

“FFA will not tolerate any unlawful discrimination or harassment of a person because of their Gender identity. This includes Discrimination or Harassment of a person who is transgender or transsexual or who is assumed to be transgender or transsexual or has an association with someone who has or is assumed to be transgender or transsexual.”

It is an undeniable affirmation of the policies of inclusion that Australian football wishes to espouse; stating that all are welcome to the game and should participate without fear of harassment or discrimination.

The question then becomes whether the decision to reject an application from a transgender athlete wishing to compete at the highest level of football in Australia is discriminatory or not. Far greater legal minds than mine will ultimately make that decision, as they did in Mouncey’s case, however, with football a far less physical activity and more a game of subtlety and skill, the FFA would do well to prepare for the inevitable transgender application to compete.

My Monday coffee companion wishes to play football again yet lives in fear of taking on the process of applying to alter her sex on official documents. That process varies greatly from state to state and usually involves rather humiliating examinations by medical practitioners and subsequent supporting documents.

Surgery, hormones and other treatments all play a role in informing the legal determination of a person’s sex and transgender athletes cannot be pooled into one strict group or definition.

For this young athlete, it all seems a little daunting and intimidating. Her story is no doubt a common one, that I hope others reading can use as a source of comfort and support in their own journey. Hopefully she will soon be on the pitch and playing the game she loves.

FFA should prepare itself for the applications of transgender athletes wishing to play in the W-League and soon. Transgender footballer Mara Gomez is currently awaiting a decision from the Argentine Football Federation and hoping to play for Villa San Marcos in the nation’s top league.

For the W-League, it is a matter of when and not if.

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Stuart Thomas is a trusted Journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on macro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions.

Football Coaching Life Podcast Recap: Episode One with Ange Postecoglou

Football Coaches Australia released the first episode of their new podcast “The Football Coaching Life” last week, with Ange Postecoglou as their opening guest on the show.

In a wide-ranging chat with former Socceroo Gary Cole, Postecoglou detailed his extensive coaching journey in the hour-long podcast.

Postecoglou touched on his current time in Japan, the coaches he was exposed to when he was younger including Ferenc Puskas and Frank Arok, the role his father played in influencing his coaching, how his coaching has changed over his career, what exactly coaching is and why he does it, as well as much more.

Key Quotes in Episode One

On his relationship and influence of his father

“Football was a connection to my dad. It was the only thing that allowed me to get close to my father.”

“I would try and put out teams that he would enjoy watching.”

On his analytical nature after watching South Melbourne games as a youngster

“I’d be sitting around and listening to these old men dissecting every part of the game, I didn’t want to go outside and have a kick…I would just sit there and listen…I was always thinking about every aspect of the game even when I was younger.”

On his opportunity to coach the South Melbourne senior side after Frank Arok was sacked with two games left in the season

“I was the assistant and they said look we want you to take over for the last two games… I took the phone call at the bank and I literally put the phone down and quit the bank job and said (to myself) this is not going to be for two games. I was determined that this was my chance…25 years later I’m not back at the bank mate.”

Advice for up-and-coming coaches

“For every young coach, your number one task should not be to be successful, your number one task should be to have a career. How can you stay in the game, how can you stay in the job for 20-25 years?”

“No one is perfect.”

When quizzed on what has changed in his coaching throughout his journey

“My beliefs haven’t changed.”

“Those beliefs I have, have stood both the test of time and the different circumstances I have been in.” (Points to his success at an NSL, A-League, J-League and international level)

Final piece of wisdom for coaches

“Find the core of why you want to coach, you’ve got to find out why you want to coach. What is it at the core of why you want to do this? Because as we’ve already said, it’s not going to be a happy carefree existence.”

 

Football Australia recognise Female Football Week achievements

Football Australia are celebrating the achievements and contributions of women and girls in football as part of Female Football Week 2021.

Football Australia are celebrating the achievements and contributions of women and girls in football as part of Female Football Week 2021.

From March 1 to March 8, Football Australia are publishing a variety of digital content highlighting the important role of females in all levels of the sport. In addition, a range of educational factsheets and panels will be shared to assist the growth and development of female coaches, referees, administrators, volunteers and clubs.

Football Australia’s Female Football Week 2021 concludes on International Women’s Day on Monday March 8, following the release of Football Australia’s FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Legacy ‘23 plan at Parliament House in Canberra last week. It aims to deliver immediate and long-term community benefits and economic impact from Australia’s co-hosting of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 – the biggest sporting event on Australian soil since the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

“Female Football Week 2021 is as important as ever given the stated and sharp focus that Football Australia has on women’s football and the development of women and girls in football,” Football Australia CEO James Johnson said.

“Many of our initiatives throughout the coming week are aligned with key measures in our XI Principles for the future of Australian football and support our efforts to demonstrate to stakeholders the importance of creating a more supportive and inclusive environment for women and girls in football in Australia.

“Football Australia is targeting continued growth and 50:50 gender balance in participation by 2027. We believe Female Football Week provides the game with the platform to accelerate growth and achieve that target by recognising the important role women, together with men, play in delivering women’s football, and by showcasing that football is an inclusive and welcoming sport for women and girls from all communities, ages and abilities.”

Female Football Week 2021 content will be accessible on Football Australia’s digital and social channels.

“Over the next week the Female Football Week campaign aims to provide the community with the platform to celebrate the achievements of players, coaches, administrators and officials,” Sarah Walsh said, Football Australia’s Head of Women’s Football, Women’s World Cup Legacy & Inclusion.

“Excitingly, Female Football Week 2021 will conclude with three online panels to celebrate International Women’s Day and Female Football Week 2021.”

The panels are hosted by Stephanie Brantz, focusing on leadership and development in the modern era. They feature international and domestic executives, coaches and match officials.

The executive panel will feature Sarai Bareman, Chief of Women’s Football at FIFA, Karina LeBlanc, Head of Women’s Football at CONCACAF, Amanda Vandervort, Chief Women’s Football Officer at FIFPRO, and James Johnson and Sarah Walsh from Football Australia.

The coaching panel will feature Emma Hayes, Head Coach of Chelsea FC Women, Tony Gustavsson, Head Coach of the Westfield Matildas, and Mel Andreatta, Assistant Coach of the Westfield Matildas.

And the match officials panel currently features Kari Seitz, FIFA Head of Refereeing – Women, Kate Jacewicz, FIFA & Football Australia Referee, and Esfandiar Baharmast, former FIFA Referee and FIFA Referee Instructor.

“As an organisation that aspires to think local but act global, we’re thrilled that we can produce content with, and access insights from, change agents at the highest levels of football to share with Australia’s passionate football community. This is an important part of our mission for Australia to become the centre of women’s football in the Asia-Pacific region,” Walsh said.

The need for more women coaches – Interview with FCA’s Aish Ravi

New Football Coaches Australia (FCA) Executive Committee member Aish Ravi has made it her mission to inspire more women to take up coaching roles, from the community level to the highest level of sport in Australia.

Ravi, who is undertaking a Doctor of Philosophy focusing on women’s coaching education in football, believes Football Coaches Australia is an organisation that can challenge the current status quo amongst the coaching ranks.

“I think FCA has definitely got the potential to make a lot of change in the coaching and leadership space. I’m really excited to help them enact that change,” she said.

“I’m currently doing a PHD looking at women in sport. It’s really about understanding what women’s experiences are in football and why there is a lack of them, and seeing what strategies we can put in place to change that.

“I met Glenn Warry (CEO of FCA) through my involvement of working within the Victorian NPL system and he wanted me to use my knowledge and expertise I guess, in wanting to contribute to give women a voice in FCA.

“We wanted to see how we can amplify their voices, provide more exposure for them and also see how we can increase the number of women coaches.”

A VCE Business Management and Economics teacher by day, Ravi was personally introduced to coaching when she was asked to coach the school’s football side.

After completing an appropriate coaching licence course, she would go on to manage Junior NPL teams at Heidelberg United and Bayside United, before eventually being offered a position to coach the women’s senior team at Bentleigh Cobras.

“We ended up winning the championship in my first season (at Bentleigh) in 2019 which was really exciting,” Ravi said.

“Now we are just trying to regroup and see if we can do the same thing this year.”

Ravi’s passion for coaching is helped by her enthusiasm for working with younger people.

“I really enjoy working with them in a holistic way, so getting to know them and understanding what their interests, motivations and desires are to help them achieve their best,” she said.

“That combined with the love of football, is really why I enjoy coaching football in particular. It’s the world game and once you understand and know that, you can talk to so many people from so many different places. It’s something I get a lot of excitement and enjoyment from.”

FCA Executive Committee member Aish Ravi.

Despite these positive experiences in football, Ravi would still see the coaching game in general dominated heavily by males, something that she believed needed to be addressed.

In response to this, she would go on to co-found the Women’s Coaching Association (WCA) last year with fellow PHD candidate Julia Hay.

“I coach football, but I also play Australian rules and cricket, so I’m quite heavily involved in the community with sport in general,” Ravi said.

“Julia has an Australian Rules background and from talking and sharing our experiences we realised that a lot of the barriers women face coaching football (from my perspective), were actually also similar to that of other sports.

“Sports such as Australian Rules, Cricket, Hockey, Netball all shared common challenges. So, we founded WCA, really to get all the sports together, not just for football.

“We wanted to really bring it together for the coaches, in particular women coaches, but also men who are coaching women.

“We would like to see how we can first of all attract more women and girls to coach sport, how we can develop the women and girls who are currently coaching a team in these sports and also sustain a career.

“They are the three real objectives we have.”

According to Ravi, events like The Women’s World Cup in 2023, the biggest sporting event to be held on our shores since the 2000 Olympics, will hopefully act as a catalyst for necessary social changes in women’s sport. Not only at a coaching or playing capacity, but also at a leadership level.

“It’s a really important event,” she said.

“Sport is the most powerful social institution. It’s great that the Football World Cup is the world’s largest women’s sporting event and it’s awesome that it’s at our home.

“If the Matildas have success that’s great, that can show the young girls and women that they have a pathway, a career, that’s celebrated and respected and perhaps they can succeed in.

“But It’s also vital that we have women leaders that are visible and succeeding, that sends an equally powerful message that there are also career opportunities off the field.”

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