AEM Lleida, a football club in Spain, scripted a unique record when the all girls’ team won the local junior league beating 13 boys’ teams. The team, featuring girls between the ages of 12 and 14, joined the boys’ league back in 2014 and in a period of three years, bested them all, reported the New York Times.
AEM Lleida had decided to focus on coaching girls almost a decade ago and did well against other all-girls teams. But in 2014, the Spanish club decided to take on bigger challenges.
According to a Spanish football federation rule, clubs are allowed to field players of any gender, including mixed gender teams, for junior league competitions until 14 years of age. Making most of the rules, the AEM girls joined the boys’ league, the report added.
In their debut season, the girls finished 12th in the 18-team league, but over the next two, they raised their game and began to beat boys more regularly. This season, they went on to top the table, breaking all gender-related stereotypes in sports en route.
“I always try to show that soccer isn’t just for boys. If you’re technically better, you can compensate for being perhaps physically weaker,” said Andrea Gómez, AEM’s captain and top-scorer of the league this season.
AEM’s amazing journey, though, wasn’t without roadblocks. More than anything else, the young girls had to face unfavorable reactions from people.
“We were looking for a more competitive championship, in which they could improve and surpass themselves. It was quite difficult to convince their parents and some people thought we were crazy, but it’s clear now that we made the right decision,” José María Salmerón, the club’s general coordinator told Euro News.
Dani Rodrigo, the team’s coach, spoke about how a referee once referred to them as “las princesas” (the princesses) and another asked whether they had come to the right ground. Mothers of rival male players and even spectators often heckled the girls, but they let their game to do the talking, till they won the title.
To celebrate their championship win, the girls wore a shirt “Barbie dolls can play too”, a fitting answer to all those who told them to go and play with dolls.