It's sad to think that there are women across the world who still don't have the right to decide their own future. Fortunately, here and now, even if there are still obstacles, becoming a mother is a woman's choice. In the world of elite sport, however, women have to ask themselves a lot of questions: will I be able to return to the same level? How will my team react? Will they still want me when I'm ready to come back? Fortunately for Lorena Bardera, everything went smoothly.
This 31-year-old was this week, alongside María Flores, presented as Malaga's latest signing for the final stretch of their second division campaign. Like many others, she started playing football as a child, in her neighbourhood team (La Elipa). She then went on to train and compete for Rayo Vallecano, Madrid CFF, Tacón and Samper de Costada. During this time she met her current husband, Javier, a coach in several of these teams. Shortly after the wedding, both wanted to become parents.
Ainara arrived to complete their lives a year and a half ago. "When you're pregnant your priorities change completely and, from the moment I found out, my priority was my daughter, so I stopped training immediately," she recalls.
Her club at the time, Samper, didn't object, knowing that none of their players would be able to make a living from football. However, Bardera doubts what would have happened if she had been at a top club. "It was clear to me that when I became a mother I would have to give up football," she admits. However, her desire to get back into her boots couldn't be suppressed and she returned to the field, albeit intermittently.
"I had a good pregnancy, a good birth and a good recovery but I worked for it. I didn't stop; I worked with a physio, I was swimming and running, I didn't put on too much weight... After two months I started training again with Samper and after four or five months I played a match and in truth it was a disaster. The opposition were completely passing me by," jokes the midfielder.
Arrival in Malaga
That setback didn't put her off, however, and her determination eventually resulted in her move to Malaga.
She made contact with the club through her friend and midfielder Gabi. After several conversations, she moved to the Costa del Sol with her husband and daughter to start a new life here - close to the beach and with a better quality of life, as they always wanted - and joined the team's pre-season training camp last summer.
All went well. She impressed the coaches but refused the offer to join the team at the start of the season because she wasn't quite ready to balance being a player and a mother having only just moved city. Months later, though, and circumstances changed. Now she is a member of the first-team squad and featured in the side's last two games (the latest a 2-0 win over Cáceres, their last game of the normal season).
Now she hopes to be able to contribute as much as possible in the next phase during which the side will fight to remain in the second tier. "We have to fight in every game to get as many points as possible. It's like playing in the play-offs. We have to give one hundred per cent because it's life or death," she says.
A double life
As for her personal life, she trains in the mornings, while her daughter is at nursery and dedicates the afternoons to her family, with whom she lives in Mijas.
She admits that sometimes she gets "strange" looks because she goes to pick up her little girl in her Malaga kit having just come out of training. But the truth is that she doesn't mind, because now she's happier than ever. "I wanted to feel like a footballer again," she admits.
"While I'm still involved in the game I'll give 100 per cent - all my desire, all my motivation. Football gives me life.
"I haven't thought about how long I'll play for but right now I feel very good. As long as I feel good physically and I can compete, I will continue."