Women’s soccer is, and always has been, an international game. It should then come as no shock that there are professional, semi-pro, and amateur women’s soccer leagues all over the world. But often times it’s too easy to bypass players, leagues, and nations that are as deserving as those whose every move is given space in the press.
South America has had soccer (and women playing soccer) for as long as North America. It has a long and rich history, as outlined in the book Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America by Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel. But the history of fútbol and futebol in South America is still being written.
Brazil gave the world jogo bonito, but they only recently have come into their own as a women’s footballing nation. While everyone knows Marta, Cristiane, and Formiga, they have helped make it possible for Brazil to inhabit the same space in the imagination of women’s soccer that Neymar, Thiago Silva, and Roberto Firmino do in men’s soccer.
The other South American nations are building leagues and nurturing players too. Many players come to the United States to play college soccer before heading to the NWSL, abroad to Europe, or back to their native countries to play. Others are simply trying their best to bring attention to and grow the beautiful game for the next generation of players. This is part one of a two part series.
Brazil: Karl Rothwell of the blog woso world is a font of knowledge on most women’s soccer regardless of where it takes place on the planet gave me the run down on soccer in Brazil “The Brasileiro Feminino 2020 is the Fourth Edition of the championship. Serie A1 has 16 teams, (and) the bottom four in the regular season are relegated and the top eight play off for the title in tournament format (with) home and away ties. Serie A2 has 36 teams six groups of six. The best 16 then play off in tournament format for the title with the four Quarter Final winners being promoted to Serie A1. (Brazilian soccer also has) 27 State Championships the champions or best placed team not already in A1 or A2 play the following year in Serie A2”
The league is professional, and is fairly well broadcast. Mycujoo.tv broadcasts most of the matches, according to Rothwell. “Serie A1 (broadcasts) six games on Mycujoo.tv. One game on Twitter (and) one game on Band Tv. Serie A2 all games mycujoo.tv CBF-TV. (The) Brasileiro Feminino Sub 18F and Sub 16F (is on) mycujoo.tv, (the) Paulista Feminino (is on) Facebook, (and the) Paulista Feminino sub 17 mycujoo.tv. A lot of state Championships are in Mycujoo tv also. “
The big teams in Brazil are Corinthians, Santos, Ferroviaria, Kindermann, São Paulo, Internacional, São José, and Flamengo. While everyone knows Marta of the Orlando Pride, North Carolina Courage’s Debinha, and Paris Saint Germain’s Formiga, Rothwell recommended watching Cristiane and Ketlen with Santos, Gabi Zanotti, Andressinha, Tamires, Victoria, Albuquerque, and Erika with Corinthians, Rosana with Palmeiras, Fabi Simões, Byanca, and Brasil with Internacional, and Barbara with Kindermann.
“How things have been developing behind the scenes to get to todays level in the past 2 years especially. It still needs more sponsorship from outside the game but lots of very good things happened fast in this period.
Also the number of viewers 13 million watched the games last year. Next year could be very huge numbers if Globo take over showing the TV games from Band.“
Colombia: The Liga Femenina Dimayor “started in 2017 and is in the fourth edition” according to Neider Caro of Rincón del Deporte. It is the top flight of women’s soccer in Colombia, and the way it was explained by Caro is that there’s a “Regional Group Phase made up of 13 clubs, (with Group A consisting of five clubs, and Groups B and C consisting of four clubs each). Eight teams qualify for the quarterfinals (the top two from each group and the two best third-placed teams), then there’s a semifinal and final. The champions and second place team go on to the Copa Libertadores Femenina.” Games are available on Facebook and television broadcasts.
“The structure hasn’t changed,” Caro continues, “and according to the players, (they) should make a change from the structure (of the) competition format, search for sponsorship, and have medium- and long-term plans for the Dimayor, who are the organizers of the Colombian league.”
The eight teams that currently comprise the Liga are Santa Fe, América de Cali, Atlético Huila, Nacional, Millonarios, Independiente Medellin, Deportivo Cali, Junior, and La Equidad. The players are professional and include Catalina Usme, Linda Caicedo, Fany Gauto, Jessica Caro, Liana Salazar, Daniela Solera, Gisela Robledo, Vanessa Córdoba, Manuela Acosta, Orianica Velasquez, Sandra Sepulvera, Daniela Montoya, and Tatiana Ariza. Córdoba played college soccer in the United States at the University of Ohio and New York Institute of Technology while Solera, Córdoba, Velasquez, and Montoya have all played in for clubs in Europe.
“Outside of the country,” Caro realizes people “know more about the Selección Colombia players who play abroad and little about the league, but as time goes on they are getting to know more (about) the situation of the competition in the country.” He also points out that “In the first edition of the final (of) Santa Fe vs. Huila it was the Latin American record for attendance with more than 33,000 spectators in the Estadio El Campín de Bogotá” as Santa Fe became the first Liga Femenino Champion, just as the men’s side became the first men’s champion in 1948.
Ecuador: Ecuador has one of the newest leagues in South America (if not the world), with the Serie A Femenina Amateur having started in 2019. As the name states, it’s an amateur league, however there is a national cup. The league is broken down into zonal groups, meaning teams in areas play each other instead of a more nationalized league. Play is broadcast on television and Facebook.
Three teams that were suggested to keep an eye on by Bella Oblando, a journalist based in Ecuador, were Deportivo Cuenca, Ñañas, and Dragonas IDV and players to watch were Madelyn Riera, Mayte Vascones, and Gianina Latanzzio, who played in the US with OSA Seattle of the WPSL.
Peru: Perú’s Liga1 has been around since 2008, but like most of the rest of the leagues on the continent isn’t professional. María “Maca” López Bellatin currently plays in Brazil with Realidade Jovem and the Peruvian National Team, and prior to that with Sporting Cristal. She told me that in previous seasons, the clubs in Lima were in their own division while teams from the provinces were in their own and would only play in the championship. This season was supposed to be different, however much like everything else the global pandemic disrupted that.
The biggest teams in the country are the aforementioned Sporting Cristal, Universitario, and Alianza. Some players to watch are Cindy Novoa, Nahomi Martinez, Miryam Tristán, Stefani Otiniano, all of whom play domestically, as well as López and Pierina Nuñez, who plays with Spain’s Logroño. The domestic league games are broadcast sometimes on Facebook. López’ ask for the league was simple “It is not (a professional league) and should have more support.”
Venezuela: Venezuela’s Superliga Femenina was started in 2017 and its teams are derived from the men’s teams in the country’s top division. According to Dayi Quintana, journalist for Radio Deporte 1590 AM in Caracas, the biggest teams are Estudiantes de Guárico and Flor de Patria. The best players have mostly left the country, with many like Petra Cabrera, Joemar Guarecuco playing in neighboring Colombia while others such as Maikerlin Astudillo, Oriana Altuve, and Deyna Castellanos play in Spain.
While I’ve tried to link to as many clubs as I could, most are to Twitter accounts. If the club has a separate femenino account I linked to that, otherwise it’s the men’s account. Bear in mind that Facebook and Instagram are very popular platforms, perhaps more popular than Twitter in certain parts of the world. But check them out. Look for them and their games. And look for part two of this on Tuesday.