Girls Soccer Team Ridiculed For Entering Boys League Silences Critics By Winning It

May 14, 2017

In 2014, coming off another season in which his girls completely dominated other girls' teams, coach Daniel Rodrigo registered his team in a boys' league for the first time.

Just two seasons later, despite parents calling the move "crazy", the girls of AEM Lleida, in Spain, won the league.

girls soccer team wins boys league
Photo credit: Samuel Aranda / The New York Times

Prior to making the move to the boys league, AEM Lleida lost only once in 22 games. The club's general director, José María Salmerón, decided the girls needed better competition.

"To push these girls, we felt they had to play against boys because you need strong opponents to make real progress," Salmerón told the New York Times.

"A few parents called us crazy when we registered the team," said Sergio González, AEM's president. "If this had gone very wrong, we would have been held responsible for humiliating the girls.

"It's strange, but most of the macho comments and insults have come from the mothers of some of the boys we play."

One referee asked coach Rodrigo whether his team had come to the wrong match and proceeded to refer to the players as "princesses" throughout the game, the NY Times reported.

girls soccer team wins boys league
Photo credit: Samuel Aranda / The New York Times

In their first season, in 2014, AEM finished 12th out of the 18 total teams but slowly gained ground on their opponents before becoming champions this year.

Andrea Gómez, the captain and top scorer, said she was proud that her team helped promote the image of women's soccer in Spain, even if her own ambition is to move eventually to the United States to play there instead.

In the U.S., it is not uncommon for women to upstage their male counterparts when it comes to soccer success. But in Spain, women's soccer remains a sideshow. Spain's top women's league did not sign its first major corporate sponsorship deal until last summer — three decades after the league began.

"I want to play where women's soccer is really valued," she said. "The paradise is in the United States."

girls soccer team wins boys league
Photo credit: Samuel Aranda / The New York Times

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