Team Canada goalkeeper shut out from playing for men’s soccer league
One of the world’s top female goalkeepers is being prevented from playing soccer for the Calgary Foothills FC men’s soccer team because of her gender.
She says that after last season, where she played in the United States, she wanted to have a change and try something different. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to progress to another U.S. team because of restrictions placed on her because of her coach.
"I was kind of in limbo and lost control of my own destiny, so I really wanted to take that control back. I started looking at other options and, at the time, going overseas wasn't really pulling at my heart strings. I just felt there was something else out there for me."
The Edmonton native tried out for and won a spot on the Calgary Foothills FC team, which is part of the Premier Development League (pdl), but soon found out she will not be allowed to play in regular season games because she is a woman.
Labbé says the situation surprised her because she had such high hopes for gender equality after her tryout sessions with the club.
"He told me that you'll come in and we'll judge you on your ability to play soccer and your ability to keep the ball out of the net and that, for me, was the most amazing thing; just knowing that I was going to come in and they would look at me as a soccer player and not as a female."
She says that the situation changed when the league began to be asked the questions about whether or not she could play alongside men. So far, it's not great news.
"The league is saying that it's in the bylaws, it's in the league rules that this is a male league and no women are allowed. That's where we're at now but we've challenged it and we've the put the challenge to them to revisit those rules because I think it's really important, especially for females in Canada."
The most difficult thing, she says, is that the league has disqualified her for something that she has no control over.
"It's tough when it's something out of your control. I can't control the fact that I'm a female. If it's because you're not good enough, you're not quick enough, if it's a little bit above your level, that's one thing. You can go home at the end of the day knowing that it's something that you can work towards."
Labbé blogged about her experience online on Wednesday and says she won’t give up her push to play for the team and says ‘being part of the squad has been an eye opening experience.’
She is allowed to practice with the team and wrote in her blog that the club and the players have made her feel welcome.
“I can’t say enough about this group of guys. I truly feel like they treat me like one of their own. They added me to the players private chat if that says anything. The staff and club opened up their door to this opportunity and made me feel so welcome.”
Marco Carducci, a goalkeeper on Calgary Foothills FC, says Labbé has no problem at all keeping up with the guys.
"She's been in the group for quite a while now, I work with her every day," he says. "She pushes me hard in training just as hard as I want to push her as well. She fits in with the group."
The club says it is looking at ways to support her and ‘stretch her game'.
In the meantime, Labbé says she has long-term goals for her career as well.
"I'm just as motivated as ever. I have a long-term goal which is to win a World Cup and win an Olympics with Canada and this is just another step in the journey."
If it turns out that she can't play in Calgary at all, Labbé could consider signing with a European club in the next little while or sign with a U.S. team, but only if a spot opens on one of those rosters.
Click HERE to read Labbé’s blog 'Forging your own path'.