Alex Chidiac’s return to the W-League was quite literally a baptism of fire.
Two-nil down – with things about to get a lot worse – the 22-year-old received an encouraging ovation from the back of the CB Smith grandstand, where fans had crammed in to avoid an unforgiving Melbourne sun, as she replaced Sarah Cain in the 62nd minute – a day out of quarantine.
‘’I think the heat was the hardest part about it but surprisingly I pulled up pretty well, just a little dehydrated afterwards,’’ she said.
While a six-goal defeat in unbearable heat would be a day most footballers would be very keen to forget, it is a far cry from going on strike and demanding better pay in a competition which promises the very best.
This was the challenge facing Chidiac and 200 of her colleagues in Spain’s Primera Division in 2019.
Players from all 16 clubs united in a push to establish a collective bargaining agreement – a movement which achieved its goal after 14 months of negotiations.
The outcome saw a new minimum wage set, maternity allowances and greater harassment protections put in place among additional benefits.
Contesting such issues with clubs and governing bodies would be a challenge for any player let alone a 20-year-old fresh to the league and unfamiliar with the language.
‘’I wish I knew Spanish for sure, other than that there’s always things you’d like to know like things about the club and what the season looks like,’’ Chidiac said.
‘’The women’s game is still growing and you don’t know what you’re going to get with other clubs. Some have big reputations and you’d think it’d be very professional but sometimes it’s not what you get. There were times where you’d think the standard would be better, which is why now looking back and with the support of the PFA we’re very fortunate here and that Australia is ahead of the game.’’
Chidiac is not the first returning Matilda to make comparisons in the treatment of players between the W-League and Spain, with teammate Jenna McCormick relaying similar thoughts when reflecting on her time at Real Betis.
Australia has been very progressive in this space with the Professional Footballers Australia and Football Australia agreeing to an increase to the minimum wage for W-League players by a third in 2019, as well as putting in a new collective bargaining agreement which closed the pay-gap between the Socceroos and Matildas.
‘’It’s something a lot of young players need to be aware of. When I was younger coming though I had no idea how good I had it, the PFA got us in a minimum wage in my first season and now players coming in get a lot of support.
‘’Even when I was in Spain the PFA were supporting and in constant contact, I’m very proud about being Australian.’’
Now at City, Chidiac’s focus is solely on the football with her attention now directed towards Sunday’s rematch against Melbourne Victory.
A mass exodus at the end of last season has taken its toll in the early round, with City yet to record in a win this season and coming off its largest ever defeat.
‘’The loss was a difficult one to take,’’ Chidiac said.
‘’We’ve come together this week to figure it out and spoken quite openly about what we need to work on. We’ve responded really well, we acknowledged that it happened we’re not dwelling on it. We know what we need to do this weekend and we’re confident about that.’’
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