The Israel Football Association, the country's soccer authority, is holding a conference to promote women players of all ages, but its roster of speakers does not include a single woman.
The invitation sent out by the association to coaches and other officials in Israeli women’s soccer on Sunday says the event is one of a series of “conferences, training seminars and professional forums for the community of coaches for women and girls in Israel.” But female players and other groups such as the Israel Women’s Network noticed that the three main speakers at the conference are men.
"It's good that the Israel Football Association is holding a meeting to promote women's soccer, but the choice of three men and no women speakers is bizarre and embarrassing," Michal Gera Margaliot, the executive director of the Women’s Network, told Haaretz.
“Women’s soccer is flourishing all over the world, and the soccer association has a window of opportunity that must not be missed to create excellent local soccer, which will be a model for young girls and teens. We call on the association to devote its resources to an immediate strategic plan, so that Israel will stop being 15 years behind compared to developed countries,” Gera Margaliot said.
Professional soccer player Oshrat Eini, who founded “Women Soccer Players Making Change,” which petitioned the High Court to gain equal funding for men and women's soccer – and won, responded to the conference on her Facebook page. She welcomed the idea, and congratulated the soccer association for hosting it.
But as for the lack of women speakers, “You have to see it, to become it,” wrote Eini. “To create a situation in which there will be a lot more women professionals coaching girls and women, and a lot more participants in these conferences in the future, they need to see an example.” There is no shortage of female role models in soccer, Eini said, and recommended Iris Antman, the head coach of the women’s youth teams and the most senior coach after that of the national team.
The Israel Football Association said in response that Antman was scheduled to speak at the conference, but canceled. “This is the first meeting on women’s soccer for 2020 and not the last, and it is clear that suitable women and men will be included in these meetings going forward,” the association said. This conference deals with a specific professional topic and the speakers were chosen accordingly, added the association.
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“The demand for the presence of women among the speakers only for their presence, even if there is no professional suitability at this specific meeting, misses the target," the statement continued. "Moreover, Iris Antman, the coach of the national youth team, was supposed to take part in the session because she was appropriate for the purposes of the meeting from a professional standpoint – but because of a prior commitment she was unable to attend.”
Eini said in response to the association’s statement that she did not think it was excluding women, and that the association is actually trying to encourage as many women to play, coach and officiate as possible – she even led the graduation ceremony for a subsidized course for women soccer coaches and officials initiated and run by the association. "Don't worry," she said, "they didn't exclude anyone here, either, and there was a male student among all the women."
She added, “But! I do think the association has social responsibility and some of its responsibility as the manager and authority for soccer and its development in Israel is to understand that visibility has a large and important effect, and in these times where women are being excluded from the public space for a variety of reasons and excuses, there's room for an important statement, certainly when the event is a conference on women’s soccer,” said Eini. “There are enough women working in coaching and good at it that could have contributed to the conference.”