This is how being a mother has changed in sports

P. L.



Rita Jasikeviciene was one of the best handball players in the Soviet Union in the 1970s, fixed on the calls of coach Igor Turcon, one of the most successful coaches in the history of the discipline. The Lithuanian, a few months before the 1975 Montreal Olympics, found out that she was pregnant. A happiness that she, however, did not like in the communist sports apparatus. Turcon, as Jasikeviciene has recounted in several interviews, asked her to have an abortion in order to go to the appointment. She is she simply said “no” to the stern technician. A decision that deprived her of taking the gold in Canada but that allowed her to give birth to her first child, Sarunas, Conversation Jasikeviciuscurrent Barcelona basketball coach and one of the most important profiles in the European basket in recent years.

Being a mother in elite sport has gone from being a taboo to something relatively normalized today. Today there are agreements in football that give facilities to athletes when they become pregnant. On January 1, 2021, a regulation of the FIFA that intended to nip one of the most aggressive practices in the world of the ball in the bud: anti-pregnancy clauses. A big jump if you take into account that they now have 14 months of maternity leave by agreement and at least two thirds of their salary during the process, in addition to a mandatory renewal clause if the pregnancy occurs in the last year of the contract. , as has happened with the Real Madrid player Sliding Marthawho last January announced that she was expecting her first child.

The fight for fair conditions has had many names, pioneers who once said “enough”. american soccer player Alex Morgan, with a powerful media focus, was one of the first to put the debate on the table by leaving her job in 2019 to have a child. However, from the Spanish point of view, being a pioneer with pregnancy in professional sports has a name and a surname: Maria Alharilla. The player, captain of Levante and who has just renewed with the Valencians until 2024, announced a few months ago that she was temporarily leaving football after learning that she was expecting her second baby.

“There is still a lot to do, but this is the way,” Alharilla explains to ABC about how being a mother has changed in sports. The player is in her fifth month and she still goes to the sports city to exercise, although she will soon have to stop her soccer activity until she gives birth. “We are all doing a master’s degree, both soccer players and medical services,” Alharilla narrates with a laugh when she tells what it is like to have a pregnant woman on a pitch. She is not concerned with how she will physically recover from the birth or how her absence will affect her position on the team. “My priority is to be a mother,” she says, in addition to demanding greater efforts to make the final leap effective: “Life in soccer is very hard, you are away all day and you also travel every weekend. I still don’t know very well how I’m going to organize myself when the time comes. The agreement should cover more things beyond the leave or the contract, “suggests Alharilla.

But it is outside of the beautiful sport where the greatest disadvantages occur, because when a cyclist competes, for example, in the Olympic Games, she does so without a contract. A situation that Spanish women’s sport has always dared to denounce, with dozens of our best athletes going to the great squares of world sport with motherhood as their trump card. Ona Carbonell and Gemma Mengual (Synchronized swimming), Teresa Portela and Maialen Chourraut (canoeing)… There are many athletes who have combined the sacrifice of the competition and the feat with being mothers. Inch by inch, what seemed like a pipe dream years ago has become normal. What better time than Mother’s Day to remember it.

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