Goalkeeping Prodigy Vanessa Cordoba Talks Gender Inequality in Soccer


Is it a man's world? So it would seem, as male-dominated sports generate billions each year.

The disparities between male and female soccer are endless - speed, agility ,play rates, game attendance are but a few of the defining factors that determines the women's game inferior to that of the men's.

We've spoken to Colombia's Vanessa Cordoba about what makes the game so intrinsically different and just why are women so far behind in terms of career longevity and pay. Having grown up the daughter of an esteemed Colombian goalkeeper - the boundless passion that defines the sport encompassed her life from the very beginning.

From an early age, the daughter of Colombian soccer star, Oscar Cordoba, was involved in a multitude of sports - but it wasn't until she was injured playing beach volleyball that the prospect of soccer lingered in the horizon - suggested of course, by her dad. A familiar face on the Colombian goalkeeping scene, he naturally suggested place between the posts for his daughter.

"I wasn't a very girly girl - I think my dad always wanted to have a boy and then he got two girls (and had to wait 15 more years for a boy) so we always had soccer balls around, and I always went to watch him train."

It hasn't been an easy journey - between difficult collegiate transitions in the U.S and injury ridden seasons, hers is a tale many have heard before - but mostly from a male perspective. Coverage of women's soccer - whether it's European, American or national is close to non-existent. Vanessa attributes this to lack of funding and lack of interest from wealthy sponsors that create hype around the sport through adverts and spreads in magazines, photo shoots etc. Adidas, who she's reluctant to talk poorly of because of their great relationship with her father, has on numerous occasions embarrassed not only themselves, but the women they sponsor by not treating them as they would their male counterparts.

"If we don't get exposure - they (the people) won't know us."

Courtesy of PanamericanWorld

She recalls a match for which the girls were presented menswear to dress in - men's spandex, ill fitting in areas known to all of us and ridiculous looking on a woman's physique. The optics don't help them either consequently, because everything looks so big, and they aren't easily marketable if their gear doesn't look good. It's a revolving, repetitive problem whereby the care isn't given to the sport and so a business cannot be cultivated - money cannot be made.

Women are left consistently in the shade of their male superstar equivalents. To make it in women's soccer, to command the respect the guys receive from sponsors, donors, management, a lot of the time it's based on how many shirts you sell, and not your talent - a complete reversal of the situation in the men's game.

"While there's more competition for men - there's also more teams, more sponsorship."

The sport is suffering in Colombia because of this degradation - Vanessa gets more money playing college soccer in the U.S than she would for the national team at home. There are no incentives to play in Colombia - many of Vanessa's comrades indeed have second jobs to accommodate the fact that pay is also non-existent for female soccer players in the country. So why do it? Why continue to pursue a career that rewards not your talent, your ability nor your hard work?

Sheer, unadulterated passion.

That's what drives these women above all. They enter the sport knowing they will not reap the rewards of the highest paid most respected male footballers - they won't attract the crowds or recognition the men in their very same field do. They are destined to pale in comparison to Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and every other boy wonder that is put on a rotating pedestal every season, every tournament, every game - idolized by the masses, celebrated in the annals of the game.

At the women's Champions League final - a riveting match, tied in the final minutes; a game that would have left any crowd breathless was broadcasted on very few stations, and received a minuscule amount of attention from the global media. What's more - is the infamous Champions League anthem, a mainstay of the competition and a symbol of the very sport itself, was not played at the women's final.

Were they not worthy of the honor? Did they not make the cut, or was it simply — like the embarrassing Adidas fiasco Vanessa has recalled — an oversight? Are those that deal with the female side of this sport just lacking in both attention and motivation to improve the sport, or is it just a serious case of sexism? Vanessa cites a quote from the vice-president of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Seyi Akinwunmi, whereby he said that it was 'lesbianism' that was killing women's football. The translation of which, one can only assume, is that if women do not become sex symbols within this sport, the sport will not thrive.

3 Min Read

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.