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Equal pay not centre stage for Ireland women right now but historic flight plan an encouraging step

Vera Pauw’s side will travel by charter flight for the first time ahead of their all-important Euro qualifier.

AMID THE HEIGHTENED talk of equal pay between men’s and women’s international teams, Vera Pauw and Ireland’s focus is purely on the football.

coach-vera-pauw Vera Pauw and her Ireland team. Source: Tim Groothuis/INPHO

With a decisive European Championship qualifier against Ukraine on Friday [KO 5pm Irish time, live on RTÉ 2], that’s all they’re thinking about as they check into their German base of Duisburg for a training camp today.

But the outside noise is hard to ignore.

Over the past few weeks, there have been growing calls for the FAI to ensure that both the men and women’s national teams receive the same level of payment. Efforts to achieve equal pay have been gathering pace with the government reportedly set to meet with the Association.

It’s certainly not something the team is dwelling on, Pauw insists. They have a job to do, and their focus is on qualifying for a first-ever major tournament.

“It’s extremely important that those discussions are there because it drives the women’s game forward to another level,” she said, when asked for her thoughts this morning by The42. “But at this moment, our concern is, of course, this game.

If we qualify, then of course, that will be brought back on the table. But both the players and staff, we have said together, ‘Keep it out of out of our discussions now please, because we want to concentrate just on this game.’

“It will not make a difference to discuss that this week, that will be after. First we qualify, and that is our our main concern. I’m so happy that we could do that together with the players, together with the captain and and that’s how we stand on it.

“We would rather not have questions this week about it.”

Pauw did go on to reveal an encouraging recent step in terms of their travel plans this week, though.

“By the way, I would like to give a huge thanks to FAI because we will fly with a charter on Thursday,” the Dutch boss, who first took charge in the home qualifier against Ukraine last October, continued.

“And I believe this is the first time that the women’s team gets a charter. Gender equality does not mean gender equity… equity, is that the right word? That you’re equal? Equality doesn’t mean being equal. Gender equality is having equal rights and opportunities.

“With this Covid situation, having to travel through the normal airport and being in lines with others, the risk of picking up the virus is so big. I wasn’t even part of that, the [FAI] management said, ‘We have to make this happen.’

“If we say that we strive for gender equality, this is the moment that this is necessary because otherwise we put our players into risk — and therefore qualification also into risk, apart from the personal danger.

I got the message, ‘We’re flying with a charter.’ Fantastic. It shows the change in thoughts that the women’s game is in every single discussion, and they proved now themselves that it’s not just discussion, that it is really serious.”

With the coronavirus obviously a huge concern and avoiding an outbreak like that in Stephen Kenny’s men’s set-up paramount, this comes as a welcome addition. The squad will fly to Kiev on Thursday in order to complete all testing in Germany and to ensure that everyone who flies has returned negative results.

And then it’s all about The Big Game.

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If Ireland win or draw, they are guaranteed a playoff place, at least, as the runners-up in Group I. On the brink of history, a beaming Pauw concluded:

“I feel privileged. This team has come so far over the last years and I’m now at that last little bit. I’m so thankful for everything that has been done before I was in charge, that we are actually in the position now already that we can qualify for playoffs.

“It’s a privilege to be the coach of this team because the determination is so big. They are so ready to make this last step, and as a coach, to jump into a situation where a group is on the edge of this, that they feel. ‘This is our moment,’ it’s just a joy to work.

“It’s fantastic to be in that place. And I hope that I have been able to add that little thing that they needed from that moment on, but I’m very much aware that I’m the one that’s privileged.”

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Emma Duffy

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