Four former Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) players ventured to Russia to play this spring, but all four have since returned, citing contract breaches and lack of professionalism. Jeff Kassouf reports on what went wrong for Kia McNeill, Leigh Ann Robinson, Yael Averbuch and Omolyn Davis.
The former three signed with Rossiyanka, whose home base of Krasnoarmeysk lies 32 miles northeast of Moscow’s center. The apartment arranged for Robinson, McNeill and Averbuch was still occupied by a middle-aged male from Washington, D.C., but a club administrator ensured them that it was safe, McNeill said. McNeill’s protest got the three Americans a hotel room, but that option proved equally alarming.
“Even our coach said he would never step foot in the hotel they put us in,” McNeill said. “I think if our owner knew we were in that hotel, he would have been really upset.”
The players weren't getting their paychecks and did not receive guaranteed stipulations of their contract. Averbuch left first, and when Robinson and McNeill were alarmed when they spoke to head coach Farid Benstitiabout their displeasure. “He said, ‘Russia is a special place,’” McNeill said, describing the discussion with Benstiti. “'Maybe we find something wrong with what you did if you find something wrong with us. Maybe the owner doesn’t let you leave.’ Everyone’s answer to everything is, ‘Russia is a special place.’”
Their visas expired in mid-April, meaning they had to renew them or leave the country. “That was our saving grace was that our visa was up,” McNeill said. “I honestly think that was the only way that we got out of there.”