Wednesday 20 June 2018

How rampant sexism is ruining the beautiful game

Chelsea team doctor Eva Carneiro has been demoted after a row with her boss. Claire Cohen calls foul on misogyny in football

Pitch: doctor: Eva Carneiro took to social media to thank the public for their support following a very public dressing down from Jose Mourinho. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
Pitch: doctor: Eva Carneiro took to social media to thank the public for their support following a very public dressing down from Jose Mourinho. Photo: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Claire Cohen

Imagine the following happens to you at work. A group of men chant "get your t***s out for the lads," as you walk past them. Another bloke shouts: "Show us where you p*** from you s***. Show us your m***."

No one bats an eyelid.

Then your boss yells at you for doing your job and demotes you, despite being widely criticised for being in the wrong.

Welcome to Dr Eva Carneiro's life as first-team doctor at Chelsea FC.

At the weekend, Dr Carneiro was lambasted by Jose Mourinho for running on to the pitch to treat player Eden Hazard during stoppage time of the club's 2-2 draw against Swansea City.

Never mind that she was doing what she gets paid for. Never mind that she was seemingly summoned on to the pitch twice by the referee Michael Oliver and that physio Jon Fearn went on to the field alongside her.

Cue major Mourinho tantrum on the sidelines.

After the match on Saturday, the Chelsea manager explained: "I wasn't happy with my medical staff because even if you are a medical doctor or secretary on the bench, you have to understand the game.

"If you go to the pitch to assist a player, then you must be sure that a player has a serious problem. I was sure that Eden didn't have a serious problem. He had a knock and was very tired.

"My medical department left me with eight fit outfield players in a counter attack after a set-piece and we were worried we didn't have enough players left."

Thanks for that Jose. Next time I'm worried about something at work, I'll go up to someone whose job I couldn't possibly hope to do and scream at them.

Sounds reasonable, doesn't it? Sigh.

In the aftermath of the incident, support has poured in for Carneiro, who's been with Chelsea since 2009.

It's made a welcome change from the sexist abuse I reproduced above, which she was subjected to at Old Trafford by Manchester United fans, earlier this year.

And Carneiro (41), who was born in Gibraltar, posted a message on Facebook:

"I would like to thank the general public for their overwhelming support. Really very much appreciated."

How depressing, that one of the women at the forefront of football feels she has to thank the public for encouraging her to simply do her job.

Reports now suggest that Mourinho has moved Carneiro off the bench in a backroom shake up that will see her relegated from training sessions, games and the players' hotel. She will still carry out her work with first-team players at Chelsea's Cobham training ground in what is being seen as a "re-tasking of duties".

Carneiro's reported demotion has already caused outrage on social media, with Arsenal, Spurs and Man United fans urging their clubs to "sign her".

Chelsea fans are upset, criticising Mourinho for "blaming anyone but himself".

Others are accusing him of sexism, following an earlier incident this month where he ranted at the wife of Real Madrid manager Rafael Benítez, saying she should "occupy herself" by "taking care of her husband's diet".

There are also those asking that we leave Carneiro's gender out of it - but I'm afraid that's impossible.

By saying that she doesn't "understand the game", Mourinho has made this all about her gender. The insidious narrative he's perpetrating is that, as a woman, Carneiro couldn't possibly grasp the complexities of football. It's the old, sexist joke about women not getting the offside rule, on a massive scale.

Such comments, coming from a highly respected football manager, are dangerous. They give fans the impression that it's okay to make Carneiro's sex an issue. That maybe they were right to treat her differently.

He has sanctioned their sexism, as a quick search on Twitter shows a sample of the comments Carneiro receives on social media show. And one can't help but speculate that Carneiro might agree.

Last year, at an FA sports medicine conference in Sweden, the Chelsea doctor made a rare public speech:

"Women want to be leaders, we just put them off as we go along," she told the audience.

"In every programme I've watched in my life, the female doctor is either hyper-sexualised or she's not present. This needs to change. Women are discouraged at a young age.

"As a male you can aspire to having a successful professional life and a fulfilling personal life. Women are told that if they want to have both, at best it's going to be difficult and at worse it's going to be a disaster.

"Ninety pc of the mail I receive is from young women wanting to perform the same role. We need to tell them it's possible and that their presence will improve results."

Carneiro doesn't need special treatment. She has, to my knowledge, never asked for it.

But nor does she need a boss who tells her how to do her job, when she's already playing by the rules - those set by football's overwhelmingly male governing bodies (that Mourinho admitted he knew Hazard wasn't properly injured only highlights where the grey area really lies here).

For this talented doctor to be demoted, simply for performing her job as asked, shows the sexism that flows through the veins of the beautiful game. And I, for one, am calling foul. © Daily Telegraph

Doctor who?

What is Eva Carneiro's background?

Promoted to her role at the start of the 2011/12 campaign after two years working with the reserves. Was born in Gibraltar to a Spanish father and English mother, studied medicine at Nottingham University, then spent two years at the Australasian College of Sports Physicians before completing her MSc in Sport and Exercise at London's Queen Mary University.

Why football?

Carneiro's love of football was sparked while travelling in Mexico during the 1998 World Cup. "Brazil was playing Mexico and we stopped at a town which was a popular honeymoon tourist destination for Brazilians," she said.

"They had a World Cup party to celebrate Brazil's first appearance. At the time I was particularly interested in learning how to samba.

"The Brazilians danced on the bar after every goal and at half-time. By the end of the game I was hooked on both football and samba."

Irish Independent

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life