In March, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) announced it would create and support a nationwide professional women’s football league, after years of calls for the governing body to professionalise the women's game in Argentina.
Recently, San Lorenzo de Almagro announced the signing of the country’s first professional women’s football contracts. The move represents a historic shift for the sport, which has long suffered disparities between male and female athletes. San Lorenzo will fully finance eight of the contracts, and the rest will be paid for partially by AFA.
Among the signees was Macarena Sánchez, the iconic and influential 27-year-old forward who has been a figurehead in the fight for equality, earning recognition earlier this year when she took legal action against her club, UAI Urquiza, and AFA for not recognising her as a professional player and the granting her the rights that entails.
Sánchez spoke with Perfil recently about the #NiUnaMenos movement, macho culture, and the future of women's football.
How would you define yourself?
I'm 27 years old, and I'm a football player. My fight is to achieve the professionalisation of women's football, to shift its focus from the one we're used to seeing, which is homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, and macho.
The main issue is professionalism – that the players are recognised as workers, and that they obtain better working conditions. This problem was always seen but achieved greater visibility because of my case; I was dropped by my club halfway through the tournament and I did not have the possibility of going to another one.
When we don’t have a contract or any legal protection, these clubs can do what they want with us. We don’t have a guild, so there is nothing that protects us legally in these types of situations. Many of the players do not even have social work.
What we are asking is to be able to live as men do, because we are doing exactly the same work, but with triple the effort. Almost all the female athletes have to rely on other sources of income, and this means that we can not dedicate ourselves 100 percent to what we enjoy. For me, football and feminism go hand in hand.
What does is it mean to be a feminist?
As is often the case, I was always a feminist but I had never put a name to it. I was very upset by the injustices and the differences between men and women, as well as the disparities in many fields. But I finally put a name to it after seeing the visibility that feminism achieved through the #NiUnaMenos marches.
Feminism changed my life. It kind of messed me up, because I had to deconstruct myself. I realised that everything I was thinking was wrong. Then it changed me for the better, because today I am someone else. Returning to football, it was essential to form a new identity, outside of this macho and misogynistic environment in which we play.
What are the advances, achievements and upcoming challenges?
In the environment of women's football, we have made more progress in the last month than we have in all the time since 1991, when the sport first began. In terms of the sport itself, I don’t know if we achieved much. Yes, we achieved a lot of visibility. We have raised our voices. But everything is achieved very slowly, bit by bit, because it is still a very macho environment. If there is an issue that still remains for women's football, it is the fear, because our entire career depends on someone else holding the power. We must stop seeing women's football as girls who are just having fun and recognize it as a profession. We are women working, whose rights are not being fulfilled. That is our fight.
What is your opinion about current education in terms of reproductive health?
I think it’s essential that there is comprehensive sexual education in schools. I went to a public school, and then to a Catholic school for secondary. Neither of the two gave me information about it.
I was lucky to have a family that was open to dialogue about these matters, and what I did learn was because my mother took me to the gynecologist. I could also talk with my dad, and with my friends.
I know that there are many people who do not have these benefits, who are facing other realities, so it is necessary that they also have the right information to be able to avoid illness and discrimination.