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Jennifer Cudjoe: "I now feel like we can break that cycle"

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  • Growing up in Ghana, Jennifer Cudjoe was told that her future was “in the kitchen”
  • Now, the 27-year old is a midfielder for NJ/NY Gotham FC in the NWSL, in the U.S.
  • Jennifer is a member of the Black Women’s Player Collective and is trying to help other players

As a member of the Black Women’s Player Collective, an organisation of more than 40 black women players competing in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), Jennifer tries to help break down barriers and elevate the representation of black women players.

“It makes me feel like I have a huge supportive system that is fighting for me,” Jennifer told FIFPRO. “I never felt that there were people who were going to fight for me. Having them gives me a sense of freedom, knowing that they are going to tell people to fight for what I have been craving for, and asking for. Things that I have not been able to say out loud as an individual player.”

Jennifer said she faced huge challenges, trying to get to where she is now. “I’ve experienced discrimination throughout my whole career.”

She was born and raised in Ghana. “Growing up as a young girl, it seemed impossible to do things that men do. Soccer is a huge sport and all the boys and girls play that. But in our culture it seems like it is only for men. My family and friends, everybody would be like You have to be in the kitchen.”

“I never felt that’s what I was born to do. I could do more than that, so that is something that I always wanted to change.”

Having spent over seven years in the U.S. now, Jennifer noticed that not only in Ghana girls and women are not treated the same as boys and men. 

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“Soccer is not equal for men and women. Every single player, be it a man or a woman, does the same job. We put in the same amount of time, the same amount of work. They give everything they got on the field, and they inspire on and off the field. It’s clear that they have to be paid or treated in the same way.”

“But in this world right now, it’s different. Men get everything they want, women get less. If we ask for more, it looks as if we ask for too much.”

“It will be fair if women are paid the same, treated the same, respected the same and given the same platform. If you put soccer on TV, whether it is a men’s or women’s game, everybody is going to watch it. Young boys, young girls, they are going to watch it. So it has to be equal.”

“That change needs to happen.”

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Last year, Jennifer made her debut as a professional player in the NWSL. “I remember the days when they said We cannot break that cycle. I now feel like we can break that cycle. Playing soccer isn’t only for men, it is for all young players, boys and girls. I’m glad that things are now changing.”

The midfielder wants to inspire girls, especially African. “When I was young, there were good players in Africa, but we didn’t see them on TV. I had no player to look up to, until I saw the 2011 Women’s World Cup. I saw Alex Morgan, who became my role model and inspiration, not just on the field, but also outside the field: believe in yourself and your ability even if other people don’t believe in that.”

“Visibility matters because for me being able to share my story is one of the ways that we can solve problems. I want my story to make that change and make people see that if they put the time into it, we will be able to change players’ lives and have them to face life in different ways then I went through.”