PAUL KENNEDY: Picture perfect

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the shot of U.S. star Michelle Akers at the White House with President Bill Clinton sums up the state of the pay dispute between U.S. Soccer and the womenÆs national team.

On the publicity front, like on the field, the women are scoring goals. Akers joined Clinton at a White House event at which Clinton pressed the case for enforcement of equal-pay laws.

Akers was under a gag order not to discuss the womenÆs soccer dispute, but her mere presence with Clinton, a big womenÆs soccer supporter, was enough.

The resumption of talks in Los Angeles the same day also coincided with the publication of an article in the Orange County Register, undermining U.S. SoccerÆs plea of poverty.

By world standards, Scott ReidÆs report on compensation isnÆt that startling: U.S. Soccer paid out $688,677 in salaries for national team coaches in 1998: Steve Sampson, coach-in-waiting Carlos Queiroz and SampsonÆs eventual successor, Bruce Arena. Many big-time national team coaches make more.

The women must overcome the fact that soccer is, on the world level, a male-dominated sport. The (MenÆs) World Cup is a billion-dollar business. The WomenÆs World Cup is a throw-away event, like the Under-20 and Under-17 World Cups.

But the battle between U.S. Soccer and the women is for the hearts and minds of the American public, not an international audience. ItÆs noteworthy that Akers appeared at ClintonÆs side, not with FIFA President Sepp Blatter, with whom she has worked on the development of the game in the 21st century.

The women have taken on a cause far greater than they may have even imagined a year ago.


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