Stephanie Roche spearheading ‘the Saipan of women’s football’

A star of Irish football, Roche revealed how players are forced to change in public toilets when travelling abroad with the senior side.

Stephanie Roche was the toast of FIFA three years ago after claiming the runners-up prize in the ‘Puskas’ Goal of the Year award.

And for one weekend at least, it was five-star treatment all the way.

But yesterday the PFAI claimed that the FAI are treating Roche and her Republic of Ireland team-mates like “fifth class” citizens.

A star of Irish football, Roche revealed how players are forced to change in public toilets when travelling abroad with the senior side.

She was one of the most outspoken critics of the FAI at yesterday’s powerful press conference to highlight issues regarding their working conditions.

And while ‘tracksuit-gate’ is not the most pressing of their demands, it is arguably the most shocking.

On their travels, the players have to wear their Ireland team-tracksuit yet they only receive them at the airport.

And once the trip is over, they hand them back to the FAI as soon as they land because they are needed by some of the underage teams.

Sunderland Ladies star Roche said: “Everyone has asked the question ‘Why are we giving back our tracksuits at the airport, can we not bring them home?’.

“You literally go into the toilet, get changed, come back out and the kit-woman is there with a big bag and you just put it into it and you’re on your way’.

“I think it’s safe to say that anyone who was there and has seen it for the first time will tell you they were shocked.

“And anyone I’ve told since is like, ‘Jesus, that’s just simple stuff’. That’s nothing to with football either, that’s just about respect for us as international footballers.”

Yesterday’s show of unity has been labelled the Saipan of women’s football and Roche sees the similarities to 2002.

“This is a serious time for women’s football and we weren’t sure what the reaction would be,” she said.

“With Roy Keane, a lot of people had negative reactions towards it and other people had positive reactions.

“But what he did improved men’s football in Ireland and it improved the set-up in the FAI. We’re not looking for a major breakthrough; all we want is something to work off.

“We just want a platform to work off as international footballers, to be able to perform at the highest level and to be able to compete.”

The Irish women’s team has never qualified for a major finals and Roche insists it will stay that way unless the FAI improves standards on and off the pitch.

She continued: “It’s an Irish thing that you just get on with it and go with the flow. We’ve done that for a number of years and tried to keep plugging away.

“We can keep plugging away, playing to the best of our ability, as much as we want but we’re not playing to our full potential because of setbacks we have in the FAI.

Roche added: “It’s very difficult to turn around to your mortgage advisor or whoever you’re paying your bills to and say ‘I’m away with the Irish team for a week and I can’t pay that’.

“It’s simple facts like that that we’re worried about and that we want resolved. And individually and as a team, we feel it shouldn’t be that hard to do.”

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