Maca Sánchez: “There is a lot of machismo within the feminine” | Interview with the standard bearer of women’s professional football in Argentina

April 12, 2019 was a historic day for women’s soccer in Argentina: fifteen San Lorenzo players signed their first professional contracts. And it was no coincidence, because the fight had begun previously and with Macarena Sánchez as her standard bearer, after the forward had intimated, two months before, the UAI Urquiza, asking that her employment situation be regularized.

Sánchez’s action was extremely disruptive and revealed the worst face of the discipline. Her case generated a revolution and, shortly after, she was the first soccer player to sign the signature along with 14 teammates from the Barça team, her brand-new club at that time. However, her exposure was not free and made her the center of endless criticism from detractors of equality in football.

In an interview with the Noticias Argentinas agency, the former attacker recalled that day and everything it triggered in her personal life, while considering that the female growth was flat and even had “some setbacks.” She faced pressure, aggression, threats and a premature retirement, not to step on the court again for two years or to play a game of diving with friends. In addition, she referred to her foray into politics and her future in that field, although currently she defined herself only as a “faithful Peronist militant.”

– It is five years since you signed your first contract, the first also for a player in Argentina. How do you remember that moment today?

– The first thing that comes to mind is a lot of tiredness. They were super stressful months for me. I couldn’t enjoy nor could I appreciate what was happening. But it was a great joy and I began to fall as the weeks and months went by. That day was crazy. Meeting the team, arriving at the stadium, it was all together and with many emotions. There were journalists and even international media, I was very nervous. Then the chip fell on me and it was something else.

– Did you imagine when you started the claim that it could trigger everything it did?

– It was the objective. I did believe at first that he would not be able to play football again. You do one of those and you are a little marked by all the clubs, I thought they were not going to hire me anymore. In any case, although I wanted to play again, I preferred to try to change something and fight from another place. I accepted that this had happened to me, that it had happened to me and I had to do something. I didn’t think it was going to generate everything it did, I did know that it was going to have some impact, although I didn’t think it would happen so quickly. It was all in a few months and that did surprise me.

– Did remaining as the standard bearer of the struggle burden you with responsibilities that did not correspond to you?

– Yes, no way. But it was a responsibility I chose. It wasn’t easy and I don’t think anyone is prepared for that. I wasn’t, it was a very big responsibility. People start to use you as an example and everything becomes more complicated, you end up in the eyes of a lot of people and they judge you for better and worse. There was a lot of pressure, even more than what I put on myself. At times it overwhelmed me but I was well surrounded by my friends and family, I was able to cope.

– Did you also feel pressure regarding your performance on the field?

– Yes, it was super difficult. She was very afraid in that sense, of not being able to respond as a footballer with everything that had happened. She knew that many people thought: “Let’s see how this one plays after having talked for so many months.” But today I realize that it helped me, because in San Lorenzo I showed my best football version. It was a lot of pressure, especially since I hadn’t trained for so long, but it helped me a lot. At least in football it was positive.

Maca Sánchez’s celebration for those first professional games.

– Why do you think the growth of the feminine generates so much resistance?

– I think that far behind or far ahead of all that, there is nothing but machismo. It can be discussed whether it generates profits or losses, if it is as visible as men’s soccer or as nice to sit and watch, it is valid. But for a discipline to be like this, for a women’s game to be as entertaining as a Boca-Lanús game for men, you must first invest. And that takes a lot of time and money, it is not generated overnight. You also need decisions that involve good will. Beyond that, there are other discussions that are directly attacks by people who are completely denied the growth of the feminine. I don’t watch baseball but I don’t get angry, I don’t watch it and that’s it. There is a lot of cruelty against women in that sense.

– In 2021 you said that you were going through depression, while the attacks against you on the networks continued and increased. What was it like to deal with all that?

– It was very hard, one of the most difficult moments I went through. How did I deal with that? Psychologist, psychiatrist and my closest environment. A lot of therapy, learning to listen to myself and think about myself. There are many things that led me to that, it is not clear why that is. It doesn’t happen because of something specific. The criticism and threats affected me a lot, but I managed to get out with a lot of medical help. Little by little you start to feel better and start to see things more clearly. It is extremely difficult, there are people who spend their entire lives in a state of depression. If someone reading the note is going through this, I always recommend that they assist people who are trained to help, that they rely on their close people and that they be patient.

– Is the fight for women’s football more difficult in this era than in those moments?

– Without a doubt. Yes, because at that time feminism was more latent than ever and a lot of women were realizing that they were indeed feminists. There was a fervor behind that to rise to all the demands, which for me is great and we have to take it up again, although I think there has to be an order of priorities. Also, today it became a bit fashionable to be a jerk. I don’t know if they were hiding for a while waiting to organize themselves and go out together because there were a lot of empowered women. Feminism has to find some organization, regroup and stand up to the same people it stood up to before, so that they feel ashamed of being that. Today all debates are three times more complicated than at that time.

– Was there a lack of strength in the group of players to continue advancing with the fight?

– What happens in all areas happened, it is always nicer to look at it from the armchair and see how others break their backs to get something. May it come to you through the work and grace of others. It still happens today, although I am much further away. The claims are exactly the same and the internal struggle of the collective is the same. Two or three of a team complain and the rest keep their mouths shut. But it is like that everywhere, in men’s environments too. Human beings are like that, it is easier for others to move. I think there is a question of selfishness and a lot of machismo within the feminine, that seems serious to me. Afterwards, being afraid is understandable.

– Did raising your voice at that time have consequences on a day-to-day basis?

– Yes, it happened to me. But she was planted from another place too. I had had quite strong personal growth after UAI and what happened those years, I realized that there were battles that I had to choose. Things I had to smoke to get others. I wasn’t going to be able to do everything. Yes, whenever someone asked me for a hand with something, I tried to solve it. But despite 2019, they wanted to continue taking me down a line. With greater subtlety, with more fear, and they grabbed me knowing how to set limits. I suppose that will never stop happening, no matter how planted or empowered one is.

– Was the growth of the female ironed out?

– Yes, I even think that steps were taken backwards on issues. We were unlucky in that it just became professional shortly before the pandemic, which stopped all football. We had been raising awareness with the help of the media and then it was left aside for a logical reason. It was possible to resume, sponsors joined, all the games began to be broadcast, plus the help of the AFA with the issue of contracts. But then it went backwards, there are teams where they continue to fight over the conditions of the field, over clothing, because matches are suspended because the ambulance does not arrive, because it is not played in the main stadiums.

. Why did that happen?

. I don’t really know why. Or yes, for many things. Lack of interest, because at that moment she was on the agenda and it was worth taking advantage of the move. When the wave began to subside, she left with everyone and the speeches that she doesn’t sell returned. The few players who were engaged in the fight stopped playing, they got tired, and those who were not up, never got up. I trust that at some point something will change, but I lose hope a little as time goes by. Unfortunately it has everything to do with the drive and will of the players, although it shouldn’t be like that. That’s what it means to be a soccer player in a super sexist country, you can fight or play dumb and from time to time receive some benefits.

– Aren’t these benefits the consequences of the struggle a few years ago?

– It was all a consequence of that, like all the positive things that happened in the women’s game. Afterwards it led to the fight of a lot of athletes from other disciplines, the sponsors approached, it was a big move. And it was a consequence of the feminist struggle, whoever likes it.

– Did your militancy and foray into politics change anything in your career?

– Inevitably, yes. I think more than anything the shapes. Once I was a civil servant, I could no longer express myself online in the same way as when I was not. In that, yes, it changed, but I chose to do it because I am very respectful of institutions. It was a choice, there are people who are more spicy despite fulfilling a public or political function, but it was not my case.

-What is your current situation now, both in football and in politics?

– Until recently I was undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, before that at the Youth Institute and I haven’t played for two years. The idea of ​​leaving football started as an idea of ​​taking a break, but I found myself without football and I liked it. It was a rest that seemed eternal, I never stepped foot on the field again, not even for five-a-side football. I’m not going back, it’s over. I like my version of a former player, I’m mentally well enough to return to football, it’s a lot of wear and tear. Lately I thought about taking off my backpack and concentrating on playing, but there are things that frustrate you. You go to train and the field is not in good condition, the balls are shit… When you realize it, you spend more time frustrated and angry with football than enjoying it. I came back from practice crying and I didn’t want that anymore, I didn’t want to go anymore. That’s how I put an end to it.

– Where do you imagine yourself in the future?

– I’m not very clear about sports. Last year I did a Diploma in Sports Policy and Management, although I don’t know if I will be a leader at some point. I don’t rule out anything. I like all that, but I don’t know in what role. As for politics, now I am just a faithful Peronist militant. If at some point I return to public service, we will see. At this moment I see the current situation and women’s football with great concern, beyond the distance.

– What is your opinion of the arrival of Sports Joint Stock Companies in Argentine football?

– I am completely against it. The sporting spirit that the clubs have in Argentina would be lost. It wouldn’t be any good. It is a cliché, but the clubs belong to the members and are very important to the history of the country. It is not something that should be easily handed over for money, it is like handing over our history, our country and sovereignty. We always have to defend that. Clubs are places of inclusion and containment, that should not be resigned.

– What message would you leave for a girl who is taking her first steps in soccer and dreams of being a player?

– Have fun. For me at that age the most important thing is to have fun. And if at some point in your heart you want to be a player, simply put your mind to it, train, be consistent with your training, but always have a lot of fun. Football in general is often a difficult place for women, but let them find moments of enjoyment and happiness. Don’t get frustrated and have fun, because soccer is the most beautiful sport in the world.

2024-04-13 03:01:00
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