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Mover Over Messi, Argentina Announces Women’s Soccer Will Now Be Professionalized

In a country that is home to Lionel Messi and some of the best soccer players in the world, Argentinian women will now have a chance at an equal level playing field. Argentina’s football association (AFA) just announced that the national women’s league will now be granted professional status. The news is a breakthrough moment for not only Argentinian soccer but competitive women’s sports as a whole.

As well as having their game professionalized they will be paid like it too.

AFA President Claudio Tapia said at a press conference that each of the 16 clubs of the women’s top division must now have at least eight professional contracts with female soccer players. Those contracts must also match those of the professional men’s league. To this point, The women’s game has been largely played by amateur athletes who have gotten little money for their work compared to their male counterparts.

“When we assumed responsibility, we said we were going to oversee inclusive soccer that is gender equal, and we are demonstrating that,” Tapia told the AP.

Tapia says that the association will help by contributing 120,000 pesos (which is about $3,000) per month to each of the women’s club to finance the contracts. The female players will now be paid a monthly minimum salary of about 15,000 pesos ( roughly $365), which is equal to that made by male players in the fourth division of Argentine soccer.

In terms of success, the country team has made three World Cup appearances but has yet to make it to out of the group stage.

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The professionalization of women’s soccer in Argentina is also a good sign in terms of further helping develop future stars. The country’s women national team has had relativity low success in international soccer. In three World Cup appearances, the national team has yet to make it out of the group stage.

“This association has one promise, to improve football,” Tapia told reporters at the press conference. “We are going to keep working to develop women’s football in all provinces.”

In addition to the new league, women players will be receiving a brand new high performance center in Buenos Aires. Tapia says the association would provide pitches for teams that do not have their own facilities. The new soccer league is set to begin this June but the number of teams in the league have yet to be announced by the AFA.

The move follows a series of legal actions taken by women soccer players vying for equality on and off the field.

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The movement towards professionalization got steam when Macarena Sanchez, one of the best and most well-known women players in the country, was dismissed by the UAI Urquiza team. Shortly after, Sanchez took legal action against the club seeking compensation and professional status.

“It’s very frustrating,” Sánchez told the Guardian. “They have better salaries, better conditions and can live by being footballers. We, unfortunately, can’t. We have better results, more championships and we have even played international tournaments but we are seen as inferior just for being women.”

This movement has followed to the U.S. women’s national soccer team who also sued the U.S. Soccer Federation for “institutionalized gender discrimination. The team says they are receiving unequal pay compared with their counterparts on the men’s national team.

In Colombia, two players, Isabella Echeverri and Melissa Ortiz, who play for the women’s national team spoke out on social media about what they feel is “sexual discrimination.” They say they are playing on substandard conditions and receive discriminatory treatment by their soccer federation.

“We have decided to be honest about the reality of soccer in our country with a series of videos that we hope boost awareness,” they said on social meida. “We love our country and we want things to change for the better for female players.”

This movement has led to what many women soccer players feel is just the start of more equal and fair opportunities in the sport.

The hope is the new league will expose players to new fans and generate sponsorships for future revenue. Women’s soccer in Argentina has gotten some exposure this year, with the Boca Juniors’ female team playing at the Bombonera stadium for the first time this month. The match was also shown on television, becoming the first female football match to be shown live in the country.

Tapia says this is hopefully just the start for professional women’s’ soccer recognition in Argentina. But the success will be weighed on how many fans they get in the seats and television rights they receive for live games.

The women’s game in soccer has already made great strides the last few years. Last year, FIFA ordered all member nations to have female football plans in place by 2022 and to double the number of female players to 60 million by 2026.

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