Maylee Attin-Johnson, captain of the T&T national senior women’s football team, has described as “historic” Government’s decision to establish a Women’s Professional Football League (Wolf) and cabinet’s subsequent approval of $1.7 million to jump start the league. She expressed full support for the latest undertaking during an interview on the Sports Max Zone on Friday.
Sports Minister Brent Sancho announced Government plans during Thursday’s weekly post-Cabinet media briefing. The league will feature six franchise teams and facilitate the drafting of 40 foreign players. The latter move, said Sancho, was intended to give the league greater substance and hopefully bolster the quality of athletes on the field of play.
Attin-Johnson said, “This is an historic moment for us as females, so who won’t be excited about that? With Brent (Sancho) being the minister and having a sporting background in football–and he always had a lot of interest in terms of the development and treatment of female players on a whole, even before becoming a minister–I think it’s a fantastic initiative and we want to thank him for that.”
While she was unclear how funds for the programme would be dispensed, Attin-Johnson was confident this category of athlete would be compensated. “You are having a professional league, so you want to be paid as a professional and be treated as one. I will assume they have the right set of people behind this trying to put this together and making it a success,” she said.
Wolf was launched yesterday at the training grounds at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Mucurapo with a series of activities including parade of teams and novelty events.
Twenty teams would compete in one division. They include the national Under-17 women’s team, currently coached by Rajesh Latchoo that was preparing for the upcoming FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup qualifiers. Other participating clubs included Trincity Nationals, St Ann’s Rangers (two competing teams), Tobago Chicas, Defence Force, Queen’s Park Cricket Club (footballers), Malvern FC, Real Dimension, Point Fortin Civic Centre, Central FC, Crown Trace FC and Petrotrin.
The League’s winner will receive $12,000, the runners up $8,000 and the third placed team will walk away with $5,000. Attin-Johnson said, at present, women footballers had to manage regular jobs to meet their financial obligations, while attempting to meet the demands associated with national duty.
“So now for three months, you can actually make a living and see how it works out. Hopefully, it would make a very huge impact in the first year, so next year, it would be even bigger,” she said. The captain said participation in women’s football had grown exponentially as witnessed with programmes from the U-13 programme up to senior team, which meant this aspect of the sport did not suffer from a paucity of players.
From her understanding of plans for the league, it was intended for expansion across the region. Under the scheme, she said, local clubs would be able to draft top-tier athletes from the Caribbean and Central America. “It will have a quality team and thereby, it will help us, the senior players, as well as the aspiring players in our country to play at a quality level leading up to the Pan American Games and to the Olympic qualifiers,” she said.
Had this country qualified for the (Fifa Women) World Cup, Attin-Johnson added, “Hopefully, it would have broadened the minds of the people in the country to support women’s football and invest in women’s football. But you know, God knows why we didn’t qualify and as disappointed as I am–and it was a colossal disappointment at that–God alone knows why we didn’t quality. The only thing we didn’t do on that day was score goals.”