Monica Gonzalez has not only captained Mexican national women’s team and founded Gonzo Soccer Peace Foundation, but she’s worked the sideline as a reporter for ESPN, is a commentator and analyst for FOX Deportes and sits on the Advisory Board for FIFPro, the World Players Union. As if this wasn’t enough, she’s joining us in a climb of a lifetime, up MtKilimanjaro in June to break a soccer world record.
If you want to support us to break a soccer world record, please visit: www.startsomegood/equalplayingfield
Football has been the spine of my life. As I’ve grown its place and meaning has evolved as well. It’s a game, a business, an expression of culture, a mechanism to develop character and to raise strong women and productive future employees.
I think I may be from the last great generation of street rats. It’s sad our world has become more dangerous over time and kids now don’t get to spend as much quality time together. My dad played soccer for the US Men’s national team in the 1972 Munich Olympics so he had a ball at my feet since before I can remember and even lied about my age to get me in the boys’ league when I was 4.
When I was 13, I learned that playing soccer could get me a college scholarship and from then on, it was my goal and soccer became my job. But now there is a mad race for college scholarships - women’s soccer in the United States is becoming much more exclusive and girls in underserved communities are missing out on the chance to play.
In 2012, the NCAA reported that only 4% of its female student-athletes were Latina, and this is in a country that has almost 20% Latino population! The statistics for early pregnancy, and thus sustained poverty cycles, in US inner cities are worse than the 15 communities where I have soccer academies in Mexico and Colombia, so I know that there are still thousands of girls in the US that need someone to speak up for them.
I learned through having set up the Gonzo Academy that when a girl plays sports it doesn’t just change their life, it changes her family, her friends and the entire community. Now I see that empowering women is what will bring peace and prosperity to all of us. I got lucky, and ended up playing professional soccer, working as a sports broadcaster, and travelling the world - all because of soccer. I’m climbing Mt Kilimanjaro with Equal Playing Field for those girls out there who want go out and play but aren’t allowed or don’t have the chance.
There seems to be a sense that we need to “protect” girls, which is maybe partly because of levels of violence against women - but there is also implies an inherent “weakness” in women.
It was hard to be the captain of the Mexico national team, center back, #4—just like Rafa Marquez—and be making $300 a month while I knew he was making millions. Later on it was hard for me to be ESPN sideline reporter, as a FIFA World All Star, when all I was allowed to do was to be the “jock sniff” - chasing the boys around the field to get interviews. ESPN didn’t let me make comments or have my own opinions. I was only allowed to report on things I saw or heard on the field.
But sometimes I wonder, is that discrimination, or is it just businesses at different stages of their evolution?
As I speak to more women around the world I hear they suffered the same way we did yet we kept telling ourselves we were lucky to be on a national team and kept our mouths shut. FIFPro women’s director, former Swedish goal-keeper Caroline Jonsson, calls it “gratitude guilt”. Many amazing players my age, including myself, still have financial problems today because we chose to follow our hearts and listened to our coaches when they told us not to complain or else our program would get cut. Today, female footballers across the globe are discovering that it is not only okay to speak up, it is essential for us to continue to evolutionize our sport, discover our own competitive advantage, and prove our value to society.
Our world is in dire need of female role models and football is the perfect industry to get them from. The most important work ever is taking place now - as we see national teams like Ireland and Chile unionizing and demanding basic human rights be met.
My vision for the future is the same as my vision for Gonzo Soccer---a world with more female footballers will be a more peaceful and prosperous world. Football is global - so it could be what unites our world and builds bridges if we want it to.
To find out more about the challenge, please go to www.equalplayingfield.com