By PAUL NEWBERRY
ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta United coach Frank de Boer said he regrets his choice of words — one word, especially — in a British newspaper interview about gender equity in soccer and stressed that he’s a big supporter of the women’s game.
De Boer faced backlash before Wednesday’s Campeones Cup game for his comments in a wide-ranging interview published by The Guardian, in which he said it was “ridiculous” that female players expect to receive the same World Cup pay as the men.
The United coach issued a statement before the game saying he didn’t want to be a distraction to his team, then was asked about it after Atlanta’s 3-2 victory over Mexican powerhouse Club America — the most significant victory of de Boer’s first year as coach of the reigning MLS Cup champions.
De Boer, a native of the Netherlands who speaks several languages and sometimes struggles to come up with the right word in English, said he realizes that he made a poor choice.
“Especially the word ridiculous,” he said. “It’s a hard word if I read that word only. If you see the whole context, I was very clear that I always promote women’s soccer.”
De Boer, a former Dutch star who had short-lived coaching stints at Inter Milan and Crystal Palace, was hired by Atlanta United to replace the popular Tata Martino. After a sluggish start, the team has climbed to second place in the Eastern Conference and will play for another trophy in two weeks in the U.S. Open Cup final.
But de Boer has come under fire for some of his blunt comments, including a reference to Atlanta United fans being “spoiled” when the team was struggling. He apologized for the gaffe and said it had a different meaning in his native language.
During his time at Ajax, de Boer said he supported the push to add a women’s team. The Netherlands reached the final of this year’s Women’s World Cup before losing to the United States.
“I will always promote it,” de Boer said of the women’s game. “I think if they deserve it, they have to earn (it). If they want to be (paid more than men), they have to earn more than men. That’s how it is. But again, I think the word ‘ridiculous’ was a little bit hard.”
He added, “I will always support not only women who do soccer, but do youth sports. It’s very good mentally and healthy. Also, team sports are fantastic. Hopefully we will see a lot of women doing sport and especially soccer, because I love soccer.”