soccer, girls

details of interview

Role of the Interviewed: Local team Board members (Soccer – Regional championship)

Age: 38

Gender: male

Nationality: Portuguese

Type of radicalization: gender

Historical period collocation: 2017-2018

Date/Country of the Interview: 30/10/2018, Portugal

Interviewer: Rosto Solidário

Rosto Solidário

Have you witnessed or experienced personal situations of radicalization during your activity in sport organizations? What kind of radicalizations have you detected? (Gender, politics, religion, racism, crime, homophobia…)

board member

Currently my daughter is playing soccer in our village team in a gender mixed team. She first started to play last season after an invitation of the club president and I’ve joined the team as member of the board this year.
Despite the fact that it was previously a male team the Club itself has a long tradition of women's soccer. Back in the days, 30 years ago the Club hosted a Women’s soccer team who won several competitions and end it up been well known at the region.
At the beginning the team didn’t had enough players and they would lose most of the games. Losing the games didn’t affect that much the team as the kids really liked to play and the players – boys and girls – were really close to each other.
However, the parents didn’t felt the same way and some of them considered to take away their kids to other teams with better results.
Concerning radicalization situations, I would say that soccer is still a sport when you can see some shows of machismo. Within the younger teams in our club you can’t feel it that much because people still see them as children but as they grown up the levels of competition rises and is more frequent to find some behaviour showing gender stereotypes. Nevertheless, in our team I don’t think we have been seeming it so often. There are only two girl players at the team and all the group and the parents protect them.

Telling your story. What has happened? How has the story started?

I can share two situations. The first one was told by my daughter and concerns the gender dynamic at the school playground. She is at primary school. Frequently she was left a side in the playground everytime she and the other girl player asked to join the games the boys were having at the soccer field they would say it was because “soccer is not a girl’s sports”. Also at schools some girls – kowing that she plays soccer – told her that she is a tomboy.
The second situation in related to our own club infrastrutures. When she fisrt started playing she couldn’t shower at the club because there was no separate space for gilrs. Currently the shower rooms are still not ready to host mixed teams in a sense that what we have as girls shower rooms is improvised and temporary. With winter things get even worst. I’ve been telling other board members that it should be a priority but not all share the same perspective.

How did you realize what was going on? What kind of signals could you detect? How do you explain radicalization, referring to your experience?

At the beginning it was also an exercise of acceptance on my side. When she first started to ask me to know and play soccer I wasn’t fully convince it was the best sports for her to play. At the first matches I was really having second thoughts about her playing soccer as she seemed so lost. But in the end of the games she would tell me that she was waiting for the coach instructions. So step by step I started to realize that she really enjoyed what she was doing and the team colleagues and now she really is improving. Last match she was the only player who played during all match.

Have you tried to cope with this situation? What was possible to do? What have you done? Have you involved other people/organizations? Who was involved?

At school I felt she found herself a way to overcome the challenges. Back at the club as a parent and has a board member I feel I have a particular responsibility. I’m trying to advocate to equality between girls and boys as I feel that with time as they grow older and the matches get more and more competitive the issues about gender will rise and not in a gender balance direction.
To play soccer under the national or district championship is very expensive and small club struggle to face all expenses. Still, at the club we do have a person who help us with ensuring psychosocial support to players and team members related with frustration and so.

Did you feel you had the skills to manage this kind of situations? Which was the most difficult part of it? Have you had any form of support?

Since I took this position as a board member I’m always trying to read about related subject, learning from coaches and referees experiences across the country and also at the international level.
Currently as the kids are still so young the kind of comments I’m hearing are in a positive way. People are surprised and find funny to see girls playing at the same level as boys.
Overall, team members and staff are not prepared to manage more complex situation related with discrimination. At our club we try to manage situations as they rise. We don’t have a protocol that tell us exactly what to do.

End of the story. How did the story end up? What have you learned from this personal experience? What would you say to people who are living similar situations?

At the playground she found a way herself. Usually the soccer field is phased according with grades. After she was denial the right to play by her class mates a couple of times she decided to take her own soccer ball. After she came first and “won” the field and the other kids started to asked her to play she went ahead and negotiated that they could play but only if from now on they would also let her play when she was the one asking. It seems like her strategy worked as she never raised that issue at home again.
At the Club I strongly believe and hope we’ll gently finding ways to be more and more inclusive concerning gender.

Conclusions. Are there other relevant aspects related to (de)radicalization that you want to highlight?

I feel that local clubs are now trying harder to be inclusive and to integrate girls in their teams and also maybe girls are now searching more for places to play. Nevertheless, we still have a long way to walk, from the infrastructures (a lot of clubs where we go to play still face the challenging of not having boys and girls/men and women shower rooms) to the opportunities to give girls in strongly men’s world.
At the higher level championships not only in soccer you still find a lot signs of discrimination based on race, social and economic background.

gender stereotype in youth sport