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2023 FIFA Women's World Cup Set as Players Highlight Unequal Pay

FILE - FIFA president Gianni Infantino and FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura pose with the trophy during a press conference in Auckland ahead of the Women’s World Cup football tournament, July 19, 2023.

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is set to kick off Thursday in Australia and New Zealand, amid ongoing complaints by female athletes calling out unequal pay and bonuses.

Australia's "Matildas" and Nigeria's "Super Falcons" are among the teams that have approached their national football federations and FIFA to express unhappiness over unpaid bonuses and prize monies.

Last year, Sports Illustrated reported FIFA allocated a total $440 million in prizes, including a grand prize of $42 million, for the men's World Cup.

ESPN reports the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup prizes and bonuses will total $110 million, a 300% increase from the 2019 edition, but still only a third of the funds allocated to their male counterparts in Qatar last year.

A video released on Monday by Professional Footballers Australia, an Australian sports union, showed the Matildas calling on FIFA to ensure equal pay and treatment for women.

Earlier this month, the South African Football Association, SAFA, faced criticism after its women's national team, "Banyana Banyana,"one of Africa’s four representatives at the 2023 World Cup, boycotted a friendly match against Botswana over a pay and contract dispute.

Banyana Banyana are the reigning Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.

Association president Danny Jordaan was pushed to concede that there was a "massive gap" globally when it came men and women, despite efforts by FIFA to ensure equality.

South African billionaire and the president of the Confederation of African Football, Patrice Motsepe, bailed SAF out after disbursing $320,000 for Banyana Banyana.

Nigeria's Super Falcons also spoke on unfair pay after dismissing rumors of players boycotting their opening fixture in Melbourne, Australia against Canada, over unpaid bonuses.

Despite the dismissal of the rumors, the team previously staged sit-ins during the 2019 World Cup and at last year’s Africa Cup of Nations, in protest over a lack of payments owed by the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF.

In the lead-up to this year’s FIFA tournament, the Nigerian players had fewer training days due to cancelations by the NFF, leaving the Super Falcons and their federation at odds over payment for playing in the World Cup.

Asisat Oshoala, Nigeria’s Barcelona-based star player, said they are going to put aside their challenges over payment to prioritize making the nation proud at the World Cup.

"We're used to being in this situation now," Oshoala said, "at the end of the day the girls understand it’s about their career, it’s about the nation first, and we’re going to go out there and play regardless," she added.

Randy Waldrum, Nigeria’s head coach, on Monday said his team is ready for victory.

"I think the players are prepared. I think they understand our game plan, and now we just have to make sure we execute it," Waldrum said.

Waldrum’s sentiments were matched by other African players who are confident after displaying stellar performances during their preparatory fixtures for the World Cup.

Barbra Banda, the captain of Zambia’s "Copper Queens," spoke to media at a camp in New Zealand after a friendly match against Germany, where they won 3-2.

Banda said the victory against Germany gave Zambia confidence as they prepare for their World Cup debut.

Tournament Play

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will feature 32 nations competing to be crowned champions.

Morocco, Zambia, Nigeria and South Africa will represent Africa.

The highest ranked country going into the World Cup is the United States, followed by Germany, Sweden, England and France. Co-hosts Australia are ranked tenth by FIFA, while New Zealand is 26th.

The opening match will be between New Zealand and Norway at Eden Park in Auckland, on July 20. A few hours later in Sydney, Australia plays Ireland.

The final will take place in Australia a month later at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium on August 20.

This report was compiled by VOA’s Mike Hove with information from The Associated Press, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Nigeria’s Football Federation. VOA’s Phil Mercer contributed to the report.