Former National Team Captain Sara Björk Wins Maternity Rights Case

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir fyrirliði landsliðs Íslands í fótbolta

Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, recently retired captain of the Women’s National Football Team, has won her maternity case against former club and employer Olympique Lyonnais.

Read more: Captain Sara Björk Retires from National Team

During her time at the prestigious French football club, she became the first Icelander to score in the finals of a Champions League match, among other achievements.

After becoming pregnant in 2021, however, she ran up against cultural expectations within professional sports that discourage athletes from having children during the height of their careers. 

Sara Björk arranged with her club to return to Iceland for the duration of her pregnancy, with the understanding that she would return to the team after giving birth. However, Lyon soon began withholding her pay. When it became clear the withheld pay was part of a pattern, Sara Björk pressed claims against Lyon. Now, she has been awarded the back pay, plus interest, in a landmark case of maternity rights in professional sports.

Sara Björk now plays for the Italian club Juventus.  A full account of her pregnancy and subsequent battle with Lyon can be read here.

In a statement on social media, Sara Björk said: “This is not ‘just business.’ This is about my rights as a worker, as a woman and as a human being.” 

Ticket to the World Cup Up for Grabs Tonight (Women’s Football)

The women’s national football team could qualify for the World Cup for the first time in its history. The team faces Portugal in the second round of the qualifying play-offs tonight in Paços de Ferreira, Portugal

Heartbreak during extra time

It was heartbreak in Utrecht on September 6; aware that a draw would suffice for its first-ever ticket to the World Cup, the women’s national football team fought hard to keep the score line at 0-0 after regulation time had elapsed – despite the patent superiority of the Dutch.

During the 91st minute, Dutch forward Esmee Brugts delivered a bullet pass into Iceland’s box, which sailed past her teammate Stefanie van der Gragt and Icelandic defender Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir – before winding in the far corner of Iceland’s goal.

It was a painful defeat – but all hope wasn’t lost.

Transforming feelings of loss

The women’s national team will face off against Portugal in the second and final World-Cup qualifying round at the Estadio Capital do Movel in Paços de Ferreira, Portugal at 5 PM tonight. A win will secure a historic ticket to the 2023 FIFA World Cup.

Speaking to Vísir, midfield Dagný Brynjarsdóttir stated that this would be the team’s third “big match” of the year. “We played against France and the Netherlands and neither of those games went our way. But hopefully, this third game will be different.”

Dagný hopes that she and her teammates will harness the feeling of losing against France and the Netherlands. “That’s a feeling that we don’t want to experience again. It’s up to us to do everything in our power to transform that feeling into something better and more fun.”

Iceland is currently ranked 14th according to FIFA; Portugal is ranked 27th. Nevertheless, Portugal has been in fine form, beating Belgium (ranked 19th) in early October; Turkey and Serbia in September.

The 2023 FIFA World Cup will be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand: the first time that the tournament will have two host nations. It is scheduled to take place from July 20 to August 20 2023.