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A female footballer is suing the Argentinian Football Association and her former football team in an effort to be recognised as a professional footballer.
Macarena Sanchez says she has had enough after her club UAI Urquiza released her mid-season and is fighting to open doors for the next generation.
“The goal is to be recognised as a professional football player, so it can open the doors for other women to enjoy the benefits of earning a living from what we love,” Sanchez said.
Almost 90 years after men’s football 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.
Sanchez, while playing for UAI Urquiza, received 400 Argentinian pesos per month (£8.25) for travel and worked an administrative job at the club.
At the club since 2012, Sanchez was told in January that she was being let go because of a “soccer-related decision.”
After speaking to her sister, a lawyer, the 27-year-old took legal action seeking compensation and the professionalisation of women’s football.
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 football is still largely seen as a men’s only game.
“It’s not easy to be the first woman to launch legal action against the Argentine football 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.”
Sanchez has the backing of FIFPro, the international union that represents professional football 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. “It’s unacceptable for football clubs and national football federations in South America, or anywhere else, to treat women players as second-class citizens with vastly inferior conditions to male players.”
With UAI Urquiza, Sanchez has won four Argentinian championships and competed in three Copa Libertadores tournaments, the premier women’s event in the South American region.
This hasn’t been enough to earn her a place in the national team, which will be competing in the World Cup for the first time in 12 years.
Many of the players competing in France will have had similar problems financially, having gone on strike in 2017 after their monthly stipends of about £7.75 went unpaid.
They also lacked 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 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.
Officials at UAI Urquiza declined to comment and the interim head of the Argentinian federation’s women’s football committee could not immediately be reached.
In neighbouring Chile, another World Cup qualifier headed to France this year, football is also amateur. Coaches have complained that men’s clubs affiliated with female teams sometimes won’t even lend their counterparts fields for practice and only supply them with one set of shirts.
Instead, many top female players head to the United States to play in the NWSL and get paid, while Brazil, Mexico and Colombia are among regional countries that have professional leagues. But there is still prejudice, and ignorance, to overcome.
For instance, the president of Colombian club Deportes Tolima, Gabriel Camargo, called women’s football a “tremendous breeding ground for lesbianism.”
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