Widely acknowledged as the global game, football enjoys a reputation for cultural inclusion and democracy. It’s been compared to religion and language, even to life itself. Like most sports, football produces persistent tropes: the equalizing nature of the pitch, the power of tribalism and the player who rises from obscurity to become a champion. The game, however, is unique in its global reach. Footballers from around the world participate regardless of citizenship, language, or economic status. We - the players and the fans - are comfortable in this narrative, cleaving easily to our equitable self-image. But where in this story are the women and girls? I would discover that that’s not an easy question to answer.
Estadio Azteca in Mexico City is one of the largest football stadiums in the world. It’s hosted two World Cup finals (1970 and 1986) and it’s where Diego #Maradona scored both the “hand of God” goal, and the “goal of the century” during the 1986 quarter-final match between Argentina and England. Brazilian football legend #Pelé played at #Azteca and, in 1999, Pope John Paul II visited the stadium. (Unhappy with the position of the Virgin in the press gallery, the Pope ordered it relocated to where it stands now, behind glass in a case at the front of the room.) Azteca is the official national stadium of the Mexican national team.
Eager to explore this site of Mexican football history, I took the stadium tour. During the walk, I had the following conversation with the guide.
“Does the women’s side of the national team ever practice or play here?”
5253type54p55contents56type57text58contents59“Where do they play?”60type61p62contents63type64text65contents66“I’m not sure.” 67type68p69contents70type71text72contents73“Is any of their history kept here?” 74type75p76contents77type78text79contents80“No