Canada’s best female goalkeeper has been officially denied the opportunity to play in a men’s league.
Stephanie Labbe, ranked as one of the best female goalkeepers in the world, had been training with USL second division-based Foothills FC and was approached by the side to register in the Premier Development League, but was informed by the league she was not eligible because of her gender.
Labbe, is the number one choice between the sticks for Canada and was a shining star during the 2016 Rio Olympics, helping the team to a second-consecutive bronze medal.
“… I knew in the back of my mind there were people out there that still don’t believe in gender equality, and unfortunately even in this day and age, we’re still talking about this. When the decision was made, and they told me, it was disheartening, because this is something that I can’t control. I can’t control my gender, all I can control is what I bring to the field and what I bring to the team and my abilities as a player.”
Labbe impressed enough with Foothills FC to earn a spot on the team and featured in an exhibition game against the FC Edmonton Academy, coming on in the 80th minute and claiming her first clean-sheet for Foothills in a 4-0 win.
While it’s unlikely the league will change its decision, Labbe wants to continue to try and break down gender barriers such as Hayley Wickenheiser and Shannon Szabados did in hockey.
“From the start, I kind of knew that was treading in unchartered waters because there is no female that has ever done this in soccer,” Labbe said. “I know that a few females have done it in hockey and that made me think that if they can do it, why can’t I? I was able to prove that I can compete with these guys and compete at this level, so to be turned down for something I can’t control is a tough pill to swallow.”
Today, Stephanie ply’s her trade in Sweden and is on course to being Canada’s starting goalkeeper at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
What do you think about the decision? Would you be comfortable with a women’s professional goalkeeper play for your side? Comment below!