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Boca beats Lanus in landmark Argentine women’s soccer match

March 10, 2019
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Boca Juniors' Yamila Rodriguez, below, fights for the ball with Lanus's Leila Garcia during the Superliga women's soccer tournament in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Saturday, March 9, 2019. The women competed in one of Argentina's most famous stadiums on Saturday, a milestone for the female players who are fighting for the same rights as male soccer players in the country's most popular sport. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s Boca Juniors women’s soccer team hammered Lanus 5-0 in La Bombonera Saturday in a landmark game that was the first time an official women’s tournament match was played in the legendary stadium.

The game, held prior to a Boca Juniors-San Lorenzo men’s match, was highly anticipated coming a day after International Women’s Day and amid the rising force of Argentina’s feminist movement, which has been holding marches against gender violence under the slogan “Not One Less.”

Women’s soccer in Argentina is still played by amateur athletes who get little to no money and one player, Macarena Sanchez, recently took legal action against her club and the Argentine soccer federation in an effort to gain professional status. The case could set a precedent in a nation that is home to Lionel Messi, but where soccer is still largely seen as a men’s only game.

On Saturday, La Bombonera stadium opened a half an hour before the start of the women’s match, and when the teams took the field a handful of Boca Juniors fans received the players with the same song they would sing to the men: “Boca, my good friend, we will be with you this campaign again.”

The big stage, in one of South America’s most famous soccer venues, did not intimidate the Boca women.

Nine minutes into the match, midfielder Camila Gomez Ares threaded a pass to forward Yamila Rodriguez, who knocked the ball into the Lanus’ goal with her left foot.

“Thousands of things crossed my mind. I didn’t know if I should follow the play or look at the people. I’m not going to forget this feeling,” said Rodriguez. “Playing this soccer with these people shows that women’s soccer can do it.”

With some of the male players watching the game from the entrance tunnel, Noelia Espindola later headed in Boca’s second goal.

“It’s worth it because of everything we went through and lived through to get here,” said Fabiana Vallejos, who scored at the 61-minute mark.

In neighboring Chile, women’s soccer is also amateur, while Brazil, Mexico and Colombia are among regional countries that have professional leagues. But there is still prejudice, and ignorance, to overcome.

Argentina’s women’s national team recently qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 12 years. But even the national team’s players have struggled financially. They went on strike in 2017 after their stipends of about $10 went unpaid.

The female players were also angered when Adidas, the brand that sponsors a few members of the national teams of both genders, unveiled the new shirt for last year’s Women’s Copa America with models rather than players.

“Girls from other clubs wrote us and told us to take advantage of this opportunity and hopefully others will get it because it is something indescribable,” said Vallejos of Saturday’s game in La Bombonera.

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This story has been corrected to say San Lorenzo is second paragraph.

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