Shout out to the Czech football coach who ordered sexist players to train with the women’s team

The real MVP

Football is hardly known for being particularly enlightened when it comes to gender equality. It is one of the most popular and iconic sports on the planet, but men’s players are paid millions more than women, and hooliganism and casual sexism still runs rife. The most notorious example of this being directed towards women was a few years ago, when two football commentators were sacked by Sky for their chauvinistic mocking of Sian Massey, an assistant referee, after a Liverpool match.

Similarly another incidence of this kind of misogynistic behaviour came this week from two Czech players, Lukas Vacha and Tomas Koubek. The players told a female assistant referee to “stay in the kitchen”. Lucie Ratajova had not noticed an offside that cost Sparta a win, so Vacha, who was injured, tweeted a photo of the woman in question captioned “to the cooker”, while Koubek spoke to the press saying that “in my opinion women should stay at the stove and not officiate men’s football”.

Obviously this is unacceptable behaviour, especially for individuals who are in the public sphere and under the scrutiny of the media. However, Sparta Prague took a more novel route of chastising the misogyny of their players, rather than the usual action many clubs take in the wake of controversy of forcing players to issue the requisite grovelling apology. Instead of disciplining them by sacking or preventing them from playing, Sparta Prague had frankly, a far more constructive way of dealing with their players.

They sent them to train with the women’s team.

Adam Kotalik, the Sparta general director explained their reasoning behind this decision, saying: “As well as serving as ambassadors of the team at the Uefa Women’s Champions League games they will both report to the boss of Sparta women’s teams Dusan Zovinec and will take part at some of our training sessions with one of our women’s team to see with their own eyes that the women can be skilful somewhere else than the stove, too”.

It may appear to be counter-intuitive to give these footballers a position of responsibility in regards to a group that they have so publicly insulted, however the Czech FA chairman Miroslav Pelta implied that this may not be the end and that it is possible that there will be further repercussions for players. He added: “It will certainly be a topic at the next FA executive board meeting and I expect the disciplinary committee to react to it in a corresponding way”.

Both players have since issued apologies for their comments. Vacha said: “I support women in ‘male posts’ and I support women’s football too” and Koubek added: “I would like to apologise to all women for his comments”. But let us hope that being able to see football from a female perspective by training with the women’s team will enlighten them as to why it is wrong to diminish a person based on their gender and that the place of females in football is as value as men’s.

Nevertheless, it is a refreshing way of dealing with everyday sexism. By confronting these players with their female footballing peers, they will hopefully understand how damaging these kinds of slurs are and moderate their language in the future.