By Paul Kennedy
By any measurement, 2015 was the Year of the Woman in soccer.
The USA not only regained the
Women's World Cup title that had eluded it for 16 years, but the '15ers did so in the most spectacular manner possible, beating Japan, 5-2, in a game it led, 4-0, after 16 minutes before a crowd of
53,341 fans at Vancouver's B.C. Place and a record U.S. television audience of 26.7 million television viewers on Fox and Telemundo.
The international story of the year was the fall of
FIFA president Sepp Blatter
and the corrupt empire he had overseen for 17 years. The woman who toppled FIFA was Loretta Lynch
, the U.S. Attorney General. By the end of the year, Federal
prosecutors for the Eastern District of New York, where Lynch previously served as U.S. attorney, had indicted or obtained guilty pleas from 39 soccer officials and sports marketing executives, 13 of
them current or former members of FIFA's executive committee. The 10 who pleaded guilty all await sentencing but they have agreed to forfeit more than $198 million.
Marvel Comics, creator
of super heroes like Spider-Man and Captain America, immortalized Lynch as the FIFA Slayer, holding a soccer ball in one hand and a sword over her shoulder.
But Lynch was not the only
woman to take on FIFA. Vanessa Allard
, an attorney based in the Cayman Islands, compiled the report on UEFA president Michel Platini
. The Frenchman's entourage tried to trash Allard, a
member of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA ethics committee, but Platini was ultimately suspended for eight years for taking a $2 million payment from FIFA in 2011.
There is great
irony that FIFA has brought down by women. It was a staunchly male organization without a female on its executive committee until 2013 when Burundi Football Association President Lydia Nsekera
was appointed. A second woman, Sonia Bien-Aime
, the president of the Turks & Caicos Islands FA, was appointed to represent Concacaf in 2015, but that only followed the arrest of its
president, Jeffrey Webb
, in May.
We take women in positions of power within soccer for granted. Marty Mankamyer
was elected the chairperson of U.S. Youth Soccer in 1984 and
followed by Mavis Derflinger
two years later. (Mankamyer later chaired the U.S. Olympic Committee.) Amanda Vandervort,
MLS's director of social media, will be the NSCAA's fifth female
president in 2016. Lynn Berling-Manuel
, the former Soccer America publisher, is the NSCAA's CEO.
As FiveThirtyEight noted
, women's soccer has more parity the higher you go up the American soccer ladder: 40 percent
of FIFA-registered players, 47 percent of high school players and 53 percent of college soccer players are female, all a far cry from the representation in the rest of the world.
Australian international Moya Dodd
the third member of the current FIFA executive committee. You might not have heard of Dodd until FIFA Watchgate when it was revealed that Brazilian
organizers put Parmigiani watches worth $26,600 in the gift bags of FIFA executive committee members attending the 2014 World Cup and just three members refused the gifts: U.S. Soccer president
, Prince Ali
of Jordan and Dodd.
In a recent editorial in the New York Times, she laid out the lack of representation
of women within FIFA:
"When FIFA’s Congress gathers in February,
less than 1 percent of the voters will be female. National soccer boards have just 8 percent women. Players? An estimated 10 percent female. Coaches? Only 7 percent. How about the reform committee
itself? One solitary woman on a committee of 13."
Dodd was co-opted, meaning she has no vote on the current FIFA executive committee, though she has become a powerful voice for reform
within FIFA. Dodd was not on the ballot that was closed to candidates in October, but a case could be made that Dodd would be the best person to serve as the new FIFA president.