CALGARY — Canadian women’s goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe has been denied a chance to play for the Calgary Foothills FC men’s soccer team by the league citing her gender.
The 31-year-old from Stony Plain, Alta., was trying out for Foothills FC. The Premier Development League, a feeder league sponsored by United Soccer Leagues in the United States and Canada, says no.
“I have given it my best fight and feel myself fitting in, but unfortunately not everyone is as open minded about this situation,” Labbe wrote in her blog.
“The PDL’s initial response was that as per the rules ‘The PDL is a men’s league’ and ‘given that the PDL is a gender based league, women are ineligible to play.’”
Labbe has earned 49 caps for Canada and helped the women’s team win an Olympic bronze in Rio in 2016.
She’s been looking for a place to play since parting ways with the National Women’s Soccer League’s Washington Spirit earlier this year.
The PDL told The Canadian Press in a statement that, “like virtually all of our peer leagues around the world, the PDL has gender-based eligibility requirements, which we applied consistently in this case.
“Although our specific mission relates to the men’s game, we applaud all that female players have done to move the sport of soccer forward in North America.
“Stephanie Labbe, in particular, has had tremendous success, and we wish her the best as she continues to pursue her career goals.”
Labbe has played in pre-season matches for Foothills, who open the regular season May 11 versus the Victoria Highlanders.
Labbe and Foothills FC coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr., did not immediately respond to email messages from The Canadian Press.
But Labbe wrote she’s not entirely giving up on playing with the men’s team.
“This may be the first road block, but hearing ‘no’ doesn’t mean the end, it just means we have to find a diversion around the problem,” she said.
Wheeldon Jr. wrote in her blog that while “this door maybe closed for now, we are looking at other windows of opportunity to stretch Steph’s game.
“As given the short season length, any appeal would eat into valuable playing time. So whilst we get creative with a solution, the club well and truly considers Steph a part of the team.”