Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Changing Goals in Women's Soccer: In Soccer-Mad Argentina, Women Fight Sexism and Inequality

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Changing Goals in Women's Soccer: In Soccer-Mad Argentina, Women Fight Sexism and Inequality

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: While baseball is the U.S. 's national pastime, soccer is an international phenomenon. Yet women soccer players in Argentina are paid little to no money

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) - Almost 90 years after men's soccer turned professional in Argentina, the women's game is still being played by amateur athletes who get little to no money for their work on the field.

Macarena Sanchez wants to change that - now.

The 27-year-old Sanchez is taking legal action against her club and the Argentine soccer association in an effort to gain professional status. The case could set a precedent in a nation that is home to Lionel Messi and some of the world's greatest players, but where soccer is still largely seen as a men's only game.

"The goal is to be recognized as a professional soccer player, so it can open the doors for other women to enjoy the benefits of earning a living from what we love," Sanchez told The Associated Press.

From Champion To Unwelcome

Sanchez's introduction to soccer came when she was 5, watching her father play with friends on weekends in the province of Santa Fe, the birthplace of Messi, Gabriel Batistuta and Jorge Valdano. With her father's encouragement, she polished her skills at a local club.

During a friendly game in Buenos Aires in 2012, the coach of UAI Urquiza asked her to join his club, considered one of the best in South America.

"That year, we won the Argentine championship for the first time in the club's history," she said. "And then we won the championship three more times."

Sanchez also competed in three Copa Libertadores tournaments, the premier women's event in the South American region. But on Jan. 5, she got a call from her coach - one she didn't expect. Sanchez said he didn't provide any specifics, he just said she was being let go because of a "soccer-related decision."

For years, Sanchez had received a small stipend and worked an administrative job at UAI Urquiza. The news that she was no longer welcome came mid-season, so she wasn't able to join another club. After consulting with her sister, who is an attorney, she decided to launch her complaint seeking compensation and the professionalization of women's soccer.

"It's not easy to be the first woman to launch legal action against the Argentine soccer federation," Sanchez said. "I've had to carry a heavy burden, but the collective goal won. It won because I want to see many girls who in the future can enjoy being professional. That's my dream."

Officials at UAI Urquiza declined to comment, and the interim head of the Argentine federation's women's soccer committee could not immediately be reached.

Not Alone

Sanchez has, however, received strong support from FIFPro, an international organization that represents professional soccer players around the world.

"Macarena is part of a generation of leading women players in South America who are fed up with receiving derisory treatment," FIFPro said in a statement to the AP "It's unacceptable for soccer clubs and national soccer federations in South America, or anywhere else, to treat women players as second-class citizens with vastly inferior conditions to male players."

Argentina's women's national team recently qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 12 years. Sanchez is not likely make the team that is headed to France, and the legal action does not involve the national team.

But even the national team's players have struggled financially. They went on strike in 2017 after their stipends of about $10 went unpaid. They also lack proper changing rooms, for a while they trained on a dirt field, and they are often forced to travel long distances to play a game and return on the same day to save on hotel costs.

The female players were also angered when Adidas, the brand that sponsors a few members of the national teams of both genders, unveiled the new shirt for last year's Women's Copa America with models rather than players. …

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