After 12 years of absence from the championship, midfielder Florencia Bonsegundo led Argentina’s female soccer team into the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup last Tuesday in a tight match against Panama. With more than 11,000 spectators, most of whom were women, these players did not only succeed in winning a prestigious match but also won an internal battle against gender inequality, a struggle that they have been fighting for years.
The fact that women’s soccer in Argentina is not a prestigious sport has made the battle all the more strenuous; the level of effort and training invested into getting the team this far is immeasurable, and the struggle that the National Team has overcome through their perseverance and determination is admirable.
Just 14 months ago, the team, managed by Carlos Borrello, went on strike in the attempt to make their voices heard. While they were moved from the Ezeiza stadium onto a synthetic grass pitch, paid just AR $140 a day (barely enough to cover their expenses), and transported from game to game with little time to rest, the men’s qualifiers from the 2018 World Cup in Russia were offered first-class flights and optimal working-conditions; treatment that these professional athletes deserve. While the women wear the same national colors as their male counterparts on the pitch and share the same pride, women’s soccer in Argentina continues to be largely ignored in terms of both investment and support.
It was during the Copa América de Chile in 2018 where their fight for equality escalated, holding their hands up to their ears in a team photo in resemblance of their longing to be heard. They asked, once and for all, that the value and importance of their team be recognized, and that society finally begin to accept the rise of empowered female sports players.
It was through this protest that, finally, these professional athletes were heard by the people of Argentina, receiving high levels of attention and a response that they had never imagined. With social media exploding with the hashtag #EsLaHoraDeAlentarLAS (#ItsTimeToSupportThem), a burst of emotion has since flooded the stadium as the celebrations of their success continue. Positive changes to their training conditions have been implemented, and the team has since been reauthorized the permission to train at the Ezeiza stadium in what has been viewed as a revolution for women.
¡Vamoooo' @argentina! Felicitamos a nuestra selección de #FútbolFemenino por la clasificación al Mundial del Francia, en especial a nuestra jugadora Virginia Gómez#EsHoraDeAlentarLAS#ArgentinaEsMundial pic.twitter.com/zUn8vzBwND
— Rosario Central (@CARCoficial) November 14, 2018
The Equal Playing Field
In a similar vein, The Equal Playing Field (EPF) also works to reduce the gender equality gap in sports, promoting the physical development for girls and women globally, from grassroots to elite levels. Grounded on the values of equality, respect and opportunity, they work hard to ensure that every individual receives the training and investment that they need to succeed, no matter their gender, race or religion.
Through a series of high-profile challenges, the Equal Playing Field implements empowerment programs to boost the female presence in global sport. Namely, on June 24, 2017, two women’s soccer teams with players from almost twenty countries on five different continents, one of whom was Argentina’s Josefina Martorell, summited Mt. Kilimanjaro to play the world record highest elevation regulation game in history. On a volcanic ash pitch at 5,713 meters above sea level, these exceptional women took on this extraordinary challenge to prove that, not only are women just as capable as men, but they are also able to push the boundaries of what is possible, “climbing invisible mountains every day.”
“Women’s sport remains underrepresented, under-supported, and undervalued. In many cultures, women are forbidden from playing sport at all. We are committed to challenging these norms and we started by setting a world record…”
– The Equal Playing Field
Since then, The Equal Playing Field has continued to push athletes, with their next world record project Festival of Football taking place in Lyon, France 2019. Currently assembling 2,500 players from around the globe, they will participate in a five-day football match with players of all ages, abilities and genders, with the aim to break the Guinness World Record of the largest number of players ever to play in a single game (currently standing at 2,357 people).
In the strive to bring female sportswomen out of the shadows, The Equal Playing Field is currently recruiting volunteers to take part in their Festival of Football, so if you think you have what it takes, don’t stay quiet. Speak up, and stand up to help fight against gender inequality in sport.
Equilibrar La Cancha
It is through this battle for equality that movements such as Equilibrar La Cancha (Level the Playing Field) have taken flight in Argentina. Hosted by Redaccióncomar, Wikimedia Argentina and Economía Feminista, next Saturday, November 24th, volunteers and female athletes will come together to boost the women’s soccer community on Wikipedia, a platform which currently holds 5,343 male footballer biographies, compared to only 33 female.
An imbalance which seems to unjust to hide, this workshop had been created to ‘level the pitch’, and create a space which recognizes women as true equals to men, in a celebration of the gains that are being made. Their aim is to create a vast amount of Wikipedia profiles for these unrecognized players, bringing to light just how big women’s football really is.
With no prior experience in the industry needed, sign up to Volunteer at this event here. (If you have a laptop, please take it with you).