Work - or football? Dreaming of a professional career

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The Brazilian six-times world women’s footballer of the year Marta who is currently under contract in Orlando earns around CHF 500,000. The top Swiss women footballers can only dream of earning that kind of money. 

Most of the women try to find a balance every day between education or a job and competitive sport where there is little time for friends or leisure. The financial rewards in football are rarely enough to cover costs. Most women footballers in Switzerland are not paid for their sporting achievements. 

Does the dual education system lead to sporting success? 

The first Swiss Football Association’s youth promotion scheme was launched in 1995 where the dual education system was supposed to enable girls and boys alike to combine sport and education. Whether a sports school, sports academy or sports apprenticeship - the opportunities seem promising, as long as performance, effort and discipline are in alignment.

But in reality, the dual education system requires a great deal of compromise, as it is difficult with professional sport to combine education, studies or a career. Ultimately only the best athletes go abroad and are paid to be professional women footballers. Switzerland’s top women footballers have to coordinate competitive sport with a career for their livelihood. 

Successful promotion of young talent

Malin Gut from Niederrohrdorf near Baden has been playing football for her club since the age of five. First in Däniken, then for many years in Fislisbach and with the boys at FC Baden until U-15. During this period, the highly talented player attended the Swiss Football Association’s education center and lived with a host family. Originally from Aargau, she says that the homesickness made it a difficult time for her. “There were many times when I questioned my decision.” But she completed the three years. 

The weekly burden of six training sessions and final training in the club is a major challenge for the women players. (Photo: Ronny Frei)

In 2015, the midfielder moved to the Rämibühl sports school and transferred directly into the first team of FC Zürich, the NLA champions. In October 2018, Gut celebrated her debut in the Swiss national team and has since played four A internationals for Switzerland. The 19-year old has been playing for GC Zürich from summer 2019, but only for one season as this exceptional talent has moved on by signing a contract with FC Arsenal in the UK a few weeks ago.

The 19-year old talks about her transfer on the Gunners homepage: “When I first heard about Arsenal being interested in me, I initially had a look at the squad and was impressed by the quality of these players. I’m really excited about growing into this task, getting better and being in a team with great players such as Kim Little and Jordan Nobbs who’ve been at the club for years. To be honest, it feels great.” This move means that Malin Gut is one of the few Swiss women footballers to turn professional and live her passion of playing football. 

Footballer’s daily schedule

Time Task
6:00 Get up
7:00 -12:00 Work
12:00 -13:00 Lunchtime
13:00 - 17:00 Work
19:00 - 22.00 Training, recovery techniques, showers etc.
23:00 Eat
Midnight Sleep 
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Top sport or bread-and-butter job?

Top performance or not: Swiss women footballers barely earn more than amateurs. They often pay for their boots themselves; the footballers work, study or go to school in addition to training sessions or playing in tournaments. There is barely any time for family, friends or recovery periods.

Here recovery plays a key role for top sportsmen and women: After high stresses and small injuries, it’s important to help the body process the exertion in an effort to increase performance level. 

Lack of recovery is a big problem

“Every player who makes the transition to Switzerland’s top league has to work full-time or study as well. They also have to train four times a week in the evening, and one day at the weekend is normally taken up with a game”, says Martina Moser plays regularly for FCZ. She continues: “If the game is on a Sunday, the Saturday is used for training. That leaves no time – apart from maybe one evening a week. It is precisely here where action is needed: recovery time is more valuable for us players than being refunded our expenses.”

After one season at GC, Malin Gut is being transferred to play for the Arsenal Women’s team in the UK. (Photo: Ronny Frei)

Amateur, semi-professional or professional?

But the 34-year old would never give up on football: “I absolutely love standing on the pitch with my team, being excited together, the feeling, the game alone.” But she doesn’t think they should be called professional footballers. “We’re far from being that. We’re passionate women footballers. The term “professional footballer” doesn’t fit, as we’re not paid.”

An important step in the right direction

Not only is there a lack of money, but there are often no spectators or sponsors either. At NLA games, there are very rarely more than 100 spectators near the touchline and there is hardly any media presence - the league is not seen as attractive and the players are not very well known. The sad consequence is that because the clubs don’t earn any money with the women, they’re not interested in investing in this sport either.

The fact is that it’s still a long and difficult path towards the men’s standard. But the first step has been taken. AXA has been the first Women’s Super League partner since August 2020. With its commitment, it is making itself strong for the players of today and doing all it can so that women’s football gains the recognition it deserves.

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