A documentary about professional female soccer players fighting for equality worldwide is slated to be released next year with the help of a Long Island woman who helping bring the film to fruition.
Susie DeLellis Petruccelli of Manhasset is producing Warriors Of A Beautiful Game, which is being directed by Kely Nascimento-Deluca, the eldest daughter of Brazilian soccer legend Pelé. The film casts a lens on the movement toward gender equity in sports, including equal pay at the national team level. It also aims to advance the cause by shining a light on the issue and helping raise funds for nonprofits working toward correcting the disparity.
“The whole thing has been very whirlwind, but it’s been very fun,” said Petruccelli. “Everywhere we went, what we found was not at all what we expected.”
The filmmakers traveled to Brazil, Manchester City England, France, Italy, Tanzania, and Orlando to interview professional women’s soccer players and document the challenges they face.
The production comes as the U.S. Women’s National team, which recently won its fourth World Cup, is suing U.S. Soccer for gender discrimination and women’s national teams around the world are also asking for equity from their federations amid a worldwide movement to try to change the global landscape of women’s sports.
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“The argument that women don’t bring in the same revenue as men is a complicated issue, but in simple terms, it theoretically shouldn’t apply to non-for-profit organizations like U.S. Soccer and FIFA, which are mandated by their own by laws to grow the game for everyone equally,” Petruccelli said. “I argue that the revenue argument is also unethical to hold against women in clubs teams even though they are for-profit organization because, for example, in 1920 when a professional women’s game in England got more attendance than the men’s games at the time, the English FA banned women’s football — the ban stayed in place for 50 years — thwarting the growth of the women’s game unfairly.”
To advance the argument, Warriors Of A Beautiful Game follows the story of Lais Arjaujo, a young professional female soccer player who faced barriers, starting with just being allowed out of the house to play in her hometown in Brazil. Through her own ingenuity, perseverance, and a lot of luck, a recruiter saw her play by chance and discovered her to be one of the most talented players he had ever seen. She then followed her dreams to America.
“One way or another, I knew I would not be able to fulfill my dreams if I stayed in Brazil,” she said in the documentary. “You see a boy who has sufficient abilities, who has agility there is always someone there to see him, you know? We don’t have that for women’s football.”
Filming has been completed, a rough cut is in the works, and production is in the home stretch, but the documentary doesn’t have a release date yet. The filmmakers are shooting for its release to coincide with the 2020 Summer Olympics, which begin in Tokyo on July 24.
The filmmakers are accepting donations in partnership with the Women Win Foundation to help fund completion of the documentary. Once completed, the filmmakers will then raise money for initiatives dedicated to the cause, such as the Equality League, which advocates for changes that protect female athletes.
Besides Petruccelli and Nascimento-DeLuca, rounding out the team behind the film is Co-Director Justin Noto, Producer Luis Castro, Cinematographer Eric Branco, and Catherine Bealin, who’s in charge of Social Impact. Two-time World Cup winner Julie Foudy, who was a member of the 1996 Olympic gold medal winning U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, is executive producer.
Petruccelli, who grew up playing soccer in California and went to Harvard University before settling on Long Island with her husband, was tapped to produce the film due to her expertise on the issue. She is currently finishing a book about women in soccer, Raised a Warrior, due to be released in the spring. UK-based Floodlit Dreams is publishing the book after awarding Petruccelli its inaugural Vikki Orvice Prize, named for the pioneering female British sports journalist.
“I didn’t know how lucky I was to have the opportunity to play soccer until much later in life,” Petruccelli recalled. “I realized that other women before our generation … and women still in other parts of the country and other parts of the world still don’t have those opportunities.”