A Mexico City Women's Football Club Brings LGBTQ+ Players On The Field
In Mexico City, the "Football, Sweat and Joy" football club is creating a welcoming space for women and LGBTQ+ soccer players to play and socialize.
MEXICO CITY – Amid the chaos of Mexico City, a group of women and gender non-conforming soccer lovers are building a community where every player can feel welcome.
Calling themselves 'Fútbol, Sudor y Goce' (Football, Sweat and Joy), the group began with a small group of people during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021. Julieta, who had arrived in Mexico from Argentina shortly before the quarantine, wanted to find people who shared her passion for soccer and to build a community and a safe space to socialize and have fun.
"In a WhatsApp group, Julieta wrote the invitation: if anyone was interested in forming a small soccer group to meet new people," says Yorely Valero, who was part of the first to join the group. "I am from Colombia and had been living here for some time. But the pandemic affected everything, so it was an excuse to both play and connect with more people."
A small group of people responded, and after planning for months, Julieta, Yorely, Yuki, Catalina, and Anne gathered for the first time on a small field in the Juárez neighborhood . It was March 2021. Word started to spread, and more people joined the WhatsApp group.
"In that group, we only added women and queer people. That was the premise from the beginning, because there are many other spaces for cisgender men to play. This space is for these other people who have often been excluded from playing," comments Yorely.
A growing community
By Oct. 2021, the small field where they started gathering became too small, so they searched for a larger space, where they now meet. At that point, seeing the increasing number of interested people, they decided to create a tournament called "Torneíto Sudor y Goce" (Sweat and Joy Tournament).
It was beautiful because we didn't know how many people would want to join.
"It was a one-day tournament with eight teams participating. Everyone contributed what they could. Some did graphic design, others took care of social media and a ceramic trophy was made. It was beautiful because we didn't know how many people would want to join," recalls Yorely.
That's how more and more people started joining. Some came after being invited by their friends, like Bárbara Martín. "I used to train nearby, and a Colombian friend who played invited me," they say. Others passing by noticed the people playing and approached asking to join.
"I live in the area and usually walk my dog around here. I'm used to the fields being mostly occupied by men. Usually, what I did was walk away from the fields to avoid sexual glances or any uncomfortable moments. One day, I got distracted, passed by and saw only women and gender non-conforming people playing, so I stayed to watch. They invited me to play, and the following Sunday, I attended my first match," recounts Nai Mojica.
One of the "Football, Sweat and Joy" teams
"We don't keep track of goals, but we celebrate them all"
When the project started growing, the group established three unwritten rules, which they try to follow whenever they gather to play. The first one: "We don't keep track of goals, but we all celebrate." It doesn't matter which team is winning; what matters is the football and the camaraderie. So, although goals are celebrated, they take a backseat. The game itself is what's important.
Second: they play as a team. They strive for the ball to be passed several times and not be hogged by a single person to make a play.
"As a woman, when playing on men's teams, you have a bit of fear that they won't pass you the ball or won't think you're good. But here, it's not like that," says Sophia. "People who are just joining or new people who don't have the same level as others can still touch the ball and start to feel confident," adds Nai Mojica.
And third: no rough play. "Take care of your body and that of others," emphasizes Yorely. They consider the well-being of everyone and try to play in a non-violent manner. Things may get carried away in the excitement sometimes, but they always aim for fair play.
"If someone feels hurt in any way, either because someone is playing too aggressively or due to adrenaline, they raise their hand, and we stop. We have a dialogue and continue playing," says Nai Mojica. "That hasn't prevented us from having a good level of soccer or from playing with passion and a strong desire to score goals."
A space where you can relax and be yourself
This space has become a place where, in addition to playing sports and getting exercise, different people can come together, forming a community through soccer where they can open up more to themselves and others. "It's a space that makes us feel liberated, helps us express our emotions, exercise, and fosters a sense of well-being among ourselves and others," says Karla.
Alex Santiago says that as a non-binary person, they have found a safe space of togetherness and resistance where to play soccer. "I see it as a place where I could play soccer again and feel good playing. In the end, it's a space of resistance, because we can't isolate ourselves or stop doing these things due to the toxicity that exists in other spaces. We have to create our own spaces and resist," they say.
I am one piece, and I come to play sports, like any human being can.
"It is a place where you can relax and truly be yourself, free from judgment or criticism. It's a very safe place where you can allow yourself to feel and experience many things you haven't felt before," says Daniel Mora, who, even as a cis-hetero man, has found a place in this group to question many things.
The group also welcomes children, and anyone who wants to participate in a respectful manner. Roberto Romero, a 66-year-old man, plays with the group on Sundays. "It's nice to play this kind of mixed soccer, where the goal is to exercise and have fun. I like coming to have fun; that's why I interact with them. I don't feel superior or inferior. I am one piece, and I come to play sports, like any human being can," he says.
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