When foreigners are asked about the first thing they remember when they hear the word Brazil, they probably say “football”. We are known for loving football and having one of the best footballers in the world, and Brazil is frequently referred as “country of football”. But how a country can be a country of something that 51,5% is not considered of being part of it?
In Brazil, football is culturally considered a men’s thing, and women can’t be part of it, unless if she is a footballer’s girlfriend, clubs muse or game attendees. Since when I was a little kid I was taught that ball was not a girl’s toy. Boys were always encouraged to play football, meanwhile we were encouraged not to play it, because this is not “girly”.
Being a female footballer here in Brazil is tough. Their work is not valued (yes, there are exceptions like Marta, but it’s hard to see other “Martas” in Brazil), they are considered masculines and are called by pejorative names. This prejudicial though is also spread in school (believe or not ). There are very few female football teams in schools compared with the male teams, and even if the girls want to play it, they hesitate to do it because they don’t want to be labeled with pejorative names just because they want to play football. On the other hand, we were more encouraged than the boys to play volleyball in our physical education classes because this sport is more acceptable for girls to play than football. There are several sports programs that focus more on football, almost every single day football game is streamed on TV (open and cable TV), but any female football game is streamed out of the Olympiads or Pan American Games periods (at least I've never watched or heard about channels that stream it).
I’ve never been good at football, I’ve tried to play once but I didn’t like it very much, but what if I did? What if I wanted to improve my skills and be a good player? I’m 100% sure that I would be discouraged and even would be called by prejudicial nicknames. But why do I care about it? Well, there are many social programs that bring boys from risky situations to the football fields in order to play football, eventually earn a career perspective, to improve the physical health, to take them away from the drugs and crime, etc. However, why there aren’t many programs like that focused on girls, too? I believe that a sport can be also a tool to empower girls and women as well.
Nevertheless, we are moving on. I’m seeing more girls saying that they love football, more girls understanding how football works (because it's considered a "girly" thing knowing nothing about football rules), but I’m still waiting to see more girls playing. First, we need to understand that a sport like football is not supposed to be a gender divided thing, football must be encouraged to boys and girls equally. Brazil will be truly the country of football if it’s equally playable by boys and girls.