AEM Lleida’s junior girls team made history recently as they were crowned the winners of the junior boys league with four games in hand.
The team’s manager, Dani Rodrigo, who works as a salesman for a hotel furniture company for his dayjob, was ecstatic in describing how the girls had “broken down barriers” while “combating sexism from the stands.” He stated that the girls’ male competitors were stronger and faster due to undeniable physical differences between the sexes, but explained how the girls’ impressive technique and hard work meant they were able to beat their rivals time after time.
Ester Castells, the team’s oldest player, at 14, revealed the extent of the criticism the young girls faced on the pitch: “Some of the boys laughed at us and some of them shouted insults, but the worst came from some of the parents who would say that we should be playing with dolls or cleaning,” Ester explained. In fact the team’s motto, “barbies can play too”, which they have written on their shirts, was created when one mother of an opposing team told the girls they were only good for playing with barbies.
When the general coordinator of the team, José María Salmeón, opted for the more difficult route by entering the girls team into the boys league three years ago, he faced significant backlash from the girls’ parents too, as the girls lost the majority of their games in the first season. However, by their second season, the girls had adapted to their new league, finishing third, before winning the league in style this season, scoring the most goals, 93, and conceiving the least, 25.
It is an unprecedented victory for girls football in Catalonia. “We have done a really great thing,” said coach Dani. “The next generation of girls will be inspired by you,” he told the girls proudly in the dressing room.