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Women’s football in Argentina… “¿Pero cómo que jugás fútbol? ¡Sos mujer!”

Today, Expanish Blog continues the football theme, in celebration of the Copa America currently taking place in Argentina, and we ask one of our Expanish Spanish School bloggers to tell us all about playing football in Argentina…. as ‘shock horror’ a female.

When I was little, my mom used to sign up me and my twin sister up for everything possible – tap dancing, art classes, sports teams, you name it. (She claims it was so we could properly explore our interests, but I have a feeling it was more personally motivated to to get us out of the house). It was thus at age 5, amidst the plethora of activities I was involved in, that I discovered my love for soccer. While the tap dancing, art classes, and other sports teams withered over the years, soccer was something that continued to stick with me. It has formed the core of my identity and has shaped me in my ways that would have not been possible if it weren’t for soccer. I never questioned the opportunities that were afforded to me to play – it was always just something that was a matter of if and when I wanted to do it.

However, my time in Argentina has also made me see soccer as a manifestation of cultural differences. Argentina is a country where soccer is so highly regarded it resembles almost more of a religion than a sport. Yet despite the sport’s popularity, there remains a lack of fútbol feminino, or female soccer. For someone who has played soccer for over 18 years, I have to admit it is something I still have yet to fully get used to.

In college, all of the intramural soccer teams I played on were co-ed teams, and additionally, if I ever wanted to join an all-male pick-up game, I could join in without hesitation. On the other hand, in Argentina it is practically unfathomable for a girl to play soccer with the boys. In many parts of Latin America, soccer is still seen as “a man’s sport,” and thus, not something that falls under the proper female gender description. In fact, I’ve had men here tell me, with all sincerity and with the intention of saying it as a compliment, about how amazed they are that “I could play soccer and still maintain a sense of femininity.” Say what?

 

Fortunately, my over the top, feisty diva mother has created a monster, and when attempting to join in on a soccer game here, I don’t take no for an answer. Ya sé jugar, I pre-emptively and arrogantly defend myself. “Dejáme mostrarselo.” (I already know how to play. Let me prove it to you). A little obnoxious, but hey, it does the trick! Once I am allowed to play with the guys, I have had an overwhelmingly positive experience. The guys I have played with are overall very open-minded and upon playing with them have taken me seriously as a soccer player, it’s just have not come into a lot of contact with competitive female soccer.

While males continue to comprise the majority of soccer players here, fútbol feminino is on the rise. Female soccer is starting to become more acceptable, and leagues created for just girls, especially in the past few years, have been growing at lightning speed. I myself am a part of a couple of fútbol feminino leagues here, and while I have to admit it’s not exactly the level of play I am used to in the U.S., it’s incredibly refreshing and inspiring to see new spaces and opportunities open up for female soccer players here.

 

There are also other exciting developments in the realm of fútbol feminino. San Telmo Productions, an Argentine film company, is currently shooting Goals for Girls, about a female soccer team in Villa 31, a slum in Buenos Aires. The short has already garnered worldwide attention, and is currently being turned into a feature documentary. It has already been showcased in more than 15 international film festivals. You can find a link for the trailer here.

Other exciting developments include the Buenos Aires Cup, the first international youth soccer tournament in Argentina, which will be taking place this month. The tournament was started by Anna Renery, a California native who founded this tournament in part to showcase in Argentina fútbol feminino on an international stage.

My experience playing soccer in Argentina has opened my eyes to the cultural differences of gender roles, and has made me even more passionate about a sport I already loved. Fútbol feminino is starting to carve out a place for itself in Argentina, and the question remains not if soccer will became a popular female sport here, but when.

Jenn

P.S. For those Expanish students interested in playing soccer, check out Expanish’s own weekly soccer league! All levels (and genders!) welcome 🙂