Spain’s women’s football team will make history this week by taking part in their first ever World Cup, which kicks off in Canada on June 6th and runs until July 5th.
Perhaps surprisingly in a country known for its passion for the beautiful game, women’s football has been much slower to take off in Spain than in other countries.
While just the word Spain is often synonymous with football champions, Spain’s captain Veronica Boquete has played down the team’s chances:
“You could say they are zero,” she told news agency Reuters. “It’s the first time we are playing in a World Cup and there is still a big gulf between us and the main powers due to conditions in the professional game but not due to quality.”
Currently ranked 14th in the world, the Spanish team, coached by Ignacio Quereda, will make its World Cup debut against Costa Rica in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on June 9th, a match they are widely expected to win.
Trouble lies ahead however, with the other two teams that make up Group E – Brazil and South Korea, ranked seventh and 18th in the world, respectively.
“The players are enormously motivated and committed,” Quereda said in a May 11th press conference announcing his squad.
“Costa Rica is an opponent at our level, the most beatable. Brazil is an established side and will make it hard for us and Korea is a very physical and well-organised team,” added the 64-year-old.
Spain’s team is hoping to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero; to do so they have to come among the top three European teams in the World Cup.
The team’s historic participation in this year’s Women’s World Cup will bring visibility to a sport that ironically, is often ignored in Spain, home of the world’s greatest (male) football teams.
According to Spanish daily, El País, there has been a vicious circle when it comes to women’s football in Spain, “… small audiences, lack of media coverage, lack of sponsors and lack of investors.”
Spanish captain Veronica Boquete. Photo: Anders Henrikson/Wikimedia
For Spain’s captain, Veronica Boquete (pictured above), it comes down to a lack of practical equality in Spain that is ingrained in other countries, especially those in Scandinavia:
“In the nordic countries, in Sweden, the society is more equal. Equality is not just theoretic, but practical. There, there is a respect and admiration for women footballers, for sportswomen. In Spain, it’s different,” Boquete told El País in 2014.
In Spain, women footballers play alongside their jobs or studies, making a career out of the sport often involves emigrating. Boquete, currently plays for FFC Frankfurt, in Germany and has just signed for the female Bundesliga champions, Bayern Munich.
Not being able to play football full-time is one of the reasons that Spain’s adult teams do not tend to fulfill the promise of the country’s flourishing women’s youth teams:
“When you get to a certain age you have to decide how much time you are going to dedicate to sport and how much to your studies or your work,” said Boquete.
Now with its first appearance on the World Cup stage and the visibility it brings, Spain’s women footballers are hoping that the country with the world’s most passionate footie fans will put gender aside and support their sportswomen this June.