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Iceland and its soccer mothers, a rarity

The Icelandic team, opponent of France on Monday (9 p.m.), is playing the Euro with five mothers in its ranks, including Sara Björk Gunnarsdottir who gave birth eight months ago, a rarity in an environment that is slow to establish a protective framework.

Against Italy (1-1) on Thursday, the captain was lined up from the start of the midfield with Dagny Brynjarsdottir at her side. Sandra Sigurdardottir kept goal, Elisa Vidarsdottir was at right-back and only rival Sif Atladottir remained on the bench.

Gunnarsdottir, ex-Lyonnaise left this summer for Juventus Turin, is the last to have given birth to a child, Ragnar, born in November 2021.

“Starting a family as a professional sportswoman is difficult. I really want to prove that it is possible to come back from a pregnancy and play at the highest level”, launched the captain and more capped of the Icelanders in early October.

The 31-year-old midfielder, star in Iceland, did not want to choose between her sports career and her personal life. “I want to show people that I can do both,” she says in a documentary by Puma, her sponsor, released in May.

– “I’m going to show them” –

Women's Euro: Iceland and her footballing mothers, a rarity

“You hear all these voices saying you can’t do it. Sometimes I doubted myself and thought: ‘Maybe they’re right’. But at the same time it motivated me and I I said to myself: + I will show them +”, told Brynjarsdottir on the FIFA website.

Iceland has one of the highest fertility rates in Europe and the pressure there is quite strong around couples without children.

Being pregnant is nonetheless “a challenge”, if only physically, for any high-level sportswoman. “I’ve always been in shape, I’ve always been in control of my body, how I train and rest, what I eat. Now it’s so much more than just me,” Gunnarsdottir said in an interview with Forbes. in November.

Her spouse Arni Vilhjalmsson, also a footballer, moved to England with their son at the start of the Euros. Atladottir also posted a photo on Instagram with his two children after the first game.

Women's Euro: Iceland and her footballing mothers, a rarity

Two other famous footballers missed the tournament on their side: the German Melanie Leupolz, pregnant, and the French Amel Majri, seriously injured this season and who recently became the mother of a little Maryam.

“Mentalities are changing. Previously, no player in France would have done it,” commented her Lyon teammate Selma Bacha, interviewed by AFP before the Euro.

– Maternity leave for professionals –

At OL, the maternity of Gunnarsdottir and then that of Majri forced the club to look into a subject that had previously been neglected, in France and in football governance bodies.

It took until January 2021 for FIFA to impose maternity leave on federations, defining it as “a minimum period of 14 weeks of paid leave, of which at least eight must be taken after the birth of the child”.

This regulatory framework, accompanied by an obligation to pay the player “two-thirds” of her salary, at a minimum, however only concerns professionals. However, some championships remain amateur, in whole or in part.

The notoriety offered to women playing in Lyon or Paris, for example, can provide security that players less exposed to the media do not have.

Women's Euro: Iceland and her footballing mothers, a rarity

“We give life, it’s important that we can be protected at this level, that the clubs don’t kick us out because we’re pregnant,” says Kadidiatou Diani. “This is a subject that should be addressed more, that the player concerned be better protected,” said the PSG and Blue striker, member of the UNFP union, to AFP.

Bacha wanted to be optimistic: “there are things to improve but you have to be patient, it will happen.”



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