Canada’s most celebrated goalkeeper and the country’s top player was told she could not be part of the international men’s development team over her gender.
Stephanie Labbé, 31, had won a spot on Calgary Foothills FC men’s soccer team in the Premier Development League, but now, the league has told her she is not going to be part of the squad over “gender-based eligibility requirements.”
Calgary Foothills FC head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. said he wouldn’t go against the league, but he thinks that Labbé should be allowed to contribute somehow.
Labbé is seen as the best soccer player in Canada and the country’s top goalkeeper. And while she wrote in a blog post that she understands the decision, this rejection will still mark her for life.
“There are moments that stick with us for life, and I believe this is one of them for me," she wrote. "We let others tell us what path we can or can not [sic] take or we find a new one on our own. This may be the first road block, but hearing 'no' doesn’t mean the end, it just means we have to find a diversion around the problem."
When asked about the incident, the league said that it supports all women soccer players, but that the team requires players to be of a specific gender.
"Although our specific mission relates to the men's game, we applaud all that female players have done to move the sport of soccer forward in North America," the league said. "Stephanie Labbé, in particular, has had tremendous success, and we wish her the best as she continues to pursue her career goals."
Since Labbé was hoping to work with Calgary Foothills FC, she will have to try for a European team in the summer as she missed the deadline to apply and join other teams in the women’s league.
It’s upsetting to think that while Labbé earned the opportunity to play for the team, she was turned down because of her gender. After all, what happened with hiring the best person for the job, no matter who they are? Perhaps this incident will help to ignite a debate around this subject so changes to the leagues’ policies may be considered in the future.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: REUTERS