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Members of AEM Lleida, a girls amateur soccer team, celebrate a 3-2 victory and their league championship in Lleida, Spain, April 25, 2017. AEM Lleida recently conquered 13 boys team in a junior regional league in Spain, where women’s soccer remains mostly a sideshow. (Samuel Aranda/The New York Times)

Squad goals

Girls’ amateur soccer club in Spain wins boys junior regional league

By WITW Staff on May 11, 2017

A girls’ amateur soccer club in Lleida, Spain, recently won a junior regional league — besting 13 boys’ teams. Star forward Andrea Gómez, 13, scored 38 goals for AEM Lleida, an amateur club that in 2014, after a dominant showing in the girls’ league, decided to register one of its teams for a boys’ league for the first time.

“I always try to show that soccer isn’t just for boys,” said Gómez. “If you’re technically better, you can compensate for being perhaps physically weaker.”

In Spain, a country famous for its love of “the beautiful game,” support for women’s soccer has hardly been effusive. It took three decades from the founding of Spain’s top women’s league for the league to secure its first major corporate sponsorship — a deal that was made last summer. It wasn’t until 2015 that the country was even able to field enough talent to qualify for the World Cup — North Korea’s women’s team, by contrast, managed to make the tournament in 1999.

“It’s really been more a problem for parents rather than their boys,” said José María Salmerón, the club’s general director, regarding comments he had heard made about the team during matches. “It’s strange, but most of the macho comments and insults have come from the mothers of some of the boys we play.”

Daniel Rodrigo, AEM’s coach, said that referees would also chime in with their own unsolicited opinions — in one case, a referee antagonized players by continually referring to them as “las princesas,” the princesses, while arbitrating the game.

The boys, on the other hand, were by and large gracious in defeat.

“It’s hard to lose against girls,” said Orio Marchal, a player for rival boys club La Noguera. “But these ones really are very good.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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