There has been much controversy over whether or not the money flowing from Chinese football is good for the men's game, but how does it work out for the women?
Stars on the move
With the rumoured news that Brazilian international Cristiane is set to become the best paid player in women’s football after a reported Summer move to China’s Changchun Dazhong Zhuoyue people have already started to compare what’s happening on the women’s side to the men’s in the Chinese league. Whilst Cristiane’s move remains unconfirmed there have been several big transfers that have been already been completed for equally as impressive figures.
But is it really such a bad thing? With everyone clambering to tell you that Carlos Tevez is making £60 per minute (£88, 000 per day) no one has contextualised how much the likes of Isabell Herlovsen and Asisat Oshoala will be making. There is already little transparency in WoSo deals but we all know that the money made by professional footballers is a paltry sum when compared to the men, the very best in the world will earn less than not just their male counterparts but male players right down the pyramid.
Whilst it remains common for female footballers to study whilst playing so they have adequate options when they retire and look for full-time employment it’s easy overlooked how many simply have to hold down part of full time employment whilst keeping up with training and travelling.
The grumbles when it comes to men’s football are about players being seen as mercenaries with zero loyalty in the game. The Brazilian stars that have left for China are traitors to their English clubs but the money in England is arguably what brought them to the Premier League in the first place. Whilst some are lured in by the chance to play for big well known teams it’s unlikely José Bloggs dreamt of playing for Wotsit Wanderers when he was growing up in São Paulo but the money in England can motivate many a move. Now that China is throwing more money around it’s no surprise to see players leave for pastures greener, Shandong as foreign to someone who grew up in Ibadan as Grimsby.
A step down?
Aside from the money being more of a liveable wage for women – the minimum wage for NWSL players in 2016 was $7, 200 and even know it’s recently been doubled to $15, 000 it’s still incredibly low when you consider all that’s involved in being a professional football player. But wage aside there is one very big difference between what’s happening in China between men and women’s football and that is simply the standard.
Again when we consider men’s football in England, and look at the stars of the Premier League, it’s no surprise to see the better players almost entirely coming from overseas as the parallels between the Chinese Super League and PL become more glaring. But when we look at women’s football, we already know of the quality that comes out of the Far East, AFC qualifying in fiercely competitive with former World Champions Japan, both the Korea’s and Australia and China are right at home and up top with those teams.
In fact, China are currently 13th in FIFA world rankings, the Steel Roses never outside the top twenty although it’s been fourteen years since they were at their highest (fourth in the world). Yes, Cristiane and Gaëlle Enganamouit’s respective moves from Division 1 Féminine and the Damallsvenskan will be seen as a step down, for Herlovsen and Oshoala moving from the Toppserien and WSL, it’s more of a sideways step. Yes, the football will be different, just as it was for Oshoala when she moved to England or Cristiane anywhere on her travels – the Brazilian international having plied her trade in Brazil, Germany, Sweden, America, Russia and South Korea before moving to France.
But the fact remains that the Chinese national team is an accomplished one and the league will only get stronger with foreign internationals who will learn from their teammates as they too impart their knowledge upon those they play alongside.
Best in the long run
There are some (or many) who will be blindsided by figures that of course, most clubs can’t compete with but recently women’s football has been sliding into the dangerous zone of Haves vs. Have Nots (even in England). But as has been said before, the only way to beat them is to join them, and the top teams with the means have been threatening to break away from the majority in recent times, maybe the emergence of the money in the Chinese Women's Super League will be the catalyst to finally split women’s football open.
But money changing the landscape of football is unfortunately, an inevitability, and for those who complain that the level isn’t high enough the easy answer is to put more money in so the conditions get better and more players can switch to the full-time model and reach their peak. The money in the CWSL could easily be the chicken that comes before the egg.