Brazil prides itself on its football. But when it comes to gender, there’s an uneven playing field. While millions of dollars are lavished on men’s tournaments, women’s football struggles to develop in their shadow. CGTN’s Paulo Cabral has more.
Two years ago, Conmebol – South America’s football League – adopted a new rule which stated that, starting in 2019, only clubs which also have women’s teams would be allowed into their tournaments, like the Libertadores Cup.
For Brazil, that’s left a number of major clubs on the outside looking in. Despite progress, women’s football still struggles in a sporting environment dominated by men.
“It’s important that Conmebal has this new rule about Libertadores: if you do not have a female team, you cannot play Libertadores,” said Anita Efraim, a sports journalist with Radio Globo.
“I don’t know if they actually apply this, but it’s already an improvement that they thought about this.”
The Santos Football Club – the home of Pele, Brazil’s ‘King of Football’ – has had a professional women’s football team since the late 1990s. Several of its players made it to the national team, like midfielder Maria Alves and goalkeeper Dani Neuhaus.
“Women’s football is not developing at a fast pace,” Neuhaus explained. “But slowly we are advancing and things are improving. Soon it will be able to grow on its own. But we know things in Brazil always take time.”
According to Alves, “Women’s football is good in Brazil. But we lack support and visibility. There’s much talent but not enough opportunities for girls to play.”
Women’s football still has to develop a lot to catch up with the men in this football-crazed country, but it’s come a long way from a time when women were forbidden by law to play the sport.
Daniela Alfonsi, the content director of Sao Paulo’s Football Museum, pointed out that starting in 1941, Brazil had a law that stood until 1979 prohibiting girls and women from playing sports like football because they were considered ‘unwomanly’.
In the early 20th century, a women’s football match was presented as a circus attraction.
“Since the 2014 World Cup, we’ve seen some more investment and initiatives to support women’s football, but the problem is that there’s no continuity,” Alfonsi explained. “The constant interruptions and changes in sporting policies in Brazil is one of the big barriers to development of women’s football.”
The women on the pitch are working hard and doing their part. But there’s a long way to go before they get the recognition they want. Paulo Cabral, CGTN, Santos.