Equal Play is a registered charity: 73200 8727 RR0001
Our mission: Creating positive changes for girls on and off the field.
Founder Carrie Serwetnyk
The Associated Press called Carrie Serwetnyk “the pioneer of women’s soccer in Canada.” A former national team member, she spent the majority of her high level professional career in the United States, France and Japan. She has a USSF ‘A’ Coaching Licence and over the past 25 years has contributed to the development of players of all ages throughout North America.
- First Female Inductee: Canadian Soccer Hall of Fame
- Founder/Publisher: Free Kick Magazine
- United States Soccer Federation “A” Coaching Licence
- Member Canadian National Team, 1986-1996
- 3 NCAA National Championships: University of North Carolina
- 4 National Titles: Canada, Japan, USA
- Serwetnyk attended and reported from the following World Cups and Olympic Games:
- FIFA World Cup: 2018, 2014, 2010, 2006, 2002, 1998, 1994, 1990
- FIFA Women’s World Cup: 2019, 2015, 2011, 2007, 2003, 1999, 1995, 1991
I enjoyed a fantastic career in soccer for one simple reason: every time I stepped on the field to train or to play, I made the most of the talent I was given. Nothing can be taken from your career or journey when your effort is full and the intention in your heart is pure. For me, soccer has been a spiritual journey and a study in character and humanity.
In 1991, I watched nine of my University of North Carolina teammates, guided by my head coach Anson Dorrance, win the first FIFA Women’s World Cup. It was a dream come true to witness the sport I loved and believed in being so appreciated in full stadiums across China, complete with FIFA marketing. Everything changed at that moment. For the first time, women’s soccer felt really validated as a sport.
Beyond the magic of the game itself, what impressed me the most was the spirited zest and wonderful growth I had seen in players over the years. Female athletes who play a sport like soccer, where the rules on the field are completely transferable to living a life of integrity, glow of a well-being that is inspirational.
I believe on many levels that soccer can change the world for girls if they have the opportunity to play. It has already done the same for boys and men.
Over the years, and with many stories in between, one thing that became apparent to me on a not-so-fair-play way of seeing things: men still run almost all aspects of girls and women’s soccer, and they are profiting from it. Meanwhile, very few women ever create a career in soccer or have a chance to make executive decisions — even about their own game.
In January 2012, during the Women’s Olympic Qualifications, FIFA held a symposium to go over the results of the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany. The push to better involve former national team players was discussed as an important mandate, since these women have experience and understand the soccer world at a higher level. As stated by FIFA, “they are committed and they will fight for the game.” At the end of the morning, the moderator gave the several hundred delegates, ambassadors, national coaches and the like an opportunity to ask questions. I saw this as the chance to state the obvious.
I think it’s great that you are promoting the use of former female national team players as models for leadership for soccer in each country, but to be honest, when I look around this room, and no offence to all of the men here, but almost everyone here leading and deciding the women’s game is a man. And it’s not like you are going to give up your position and power and money to find a woman who is equally qualified or better than you. So what are we supposed to do?
There was a long silence.
“I don’t think there are enough competent women,” was the response from Bruno Bini, the French national coach, followed by a hushed snicker throughout the room. Before the female presenters on stage had a chance to catch up with the translation, the moderator ended the morning for lunch. Barely an eye caught mine when they all got up to leave.
That evening at BC Place, as I was strolling through the CONCACAF stadium crowd, a group of top female delegates surrounded me and told me, “what you said today was one of the most important points ever brought up at a FIFA Women’s Symposium. We have been talking about it all day and it has to be readdressed. You are so courageous to step up and say this, we would lose our jobs.” We spoke for a long time. I had goosebumps and shivers throughout my entire body. I told them, I had nothing to lose.
As a former national team player, I am well aware of all the reasons why girls and women benefit from being active and playing sports like soccer. It’s a long list. Events like the World Cup also can transform societies. I was in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup as a journalist for my magazine, Free Kick, and I had the chance to speak to a former prisoner on Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 19 years locked up, fighting for equality. He said, “what transformed in the past month where blacks and whites are together shoulder to shoulder and just seeing each other just as South Africans would have taken generations to accomplish without the World Cup.”
I see the same opportunity here in Canada and around the world for girls and women to be treated fairly and with more respect on and off the field.
Why the Women’s World Cup Matters
Equal Play arose out of the awarding of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup to Canada. The goal was to make changes for the betterment of girls and women in this country. On the field, women account for 47% of the playing membership and yet we receive less than 10% of the funding. Women account for less than 1% of the decision-making members on national and provincial boards, and are just as invisible as professional coaches, with less than 1% actively working. That’s despite the fact the Canadian women’s national team has had some excellent results internationally, winning gold and two bronze medals at the Olympic Games.
None of this means I don’t love men’s soccer. I do, and I greatly appreciate the many excellent male coaches and supporters in my career. But girls and women deserve a chance to grow and flourish and lead.
Off the field, Canadian women earn 87 cents for every $1 earned by their male counterparts and hold about 25% of political offices. Just 25 per cent of Canadian sports coaches are female. These are just three examples of how the gender gap still exists in this country. If there ever was an opportunity for transformation to occur — to better the standing for girls and women in all areas of their lives — this is it. This is our time to create legacies for the future.
My goal is that we can all work together to make these transformations possible.