Argentine women’s football has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years. The national team, which had remained for years in a state of absolute abandonment (without a coach, without competitions, outside the FIFA ranking and without even playing friendly matches) managed to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in France and made a historic participation.
On June 10, 2019, the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris was the chosen setting for Argentina to return to the highest event after twelve years. The first rival to face was Japan, whose reality was completely the opposite: the Asians had been finalists in the last two World Cups, while Argentina had not participated in one since 2007 and until then had only suffered defeats.
As expected, the game was difficult from start to finish for the Albicelestes. Japan dominated the ball and had more chances to score, but the Argentines put up a very orderly and almost perfect match in terms of defense, which led to the match ending 0-0. Argentina began the World Cup with a historic result, adding its first point in World Cups and against a power.
Estefania Banini celebrates with her teammates after the tie between Argentina and Japan. Photos: EFE / Christophe Petit Tesson
In 2019, the albiceleste broke with a twelve-year absence from the World Cup. Argentina had been to the 2007 World Cup, but later failed to qualify for the 2011 and 2015 editions, while a period of total abandonment by the leaders began.
There were only three survivors between the 2007 China World Cup and the 2019 France World Cup. Belén Potassa was one of them. She is a symbol of women’s football and the National Team, so much so that she put on the shirt in 2005 and never took it off again. She saw the changes from within: “The organization improved a lot. All the teams traveled first class, they stayed in good hotels, the matches were played in large stadiums … in 2007 many things were missing, “Belén tells Clarín. And he continues:” Now, FIFA decided that women’s football grow up and it showed. The awards that were awarded, the visibility that was given, the people who accompanied … in France the stadiums were full and in 2007 no one was going to watch the games. They are things that we begin to see now and it is good that it happens “.
Originally from Cañada Rosquín, a town in Santa Fe, Belén began to play officially in Rosario Central where she was until 2006. At just eighteen she played her first World Cup and the following year she participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Today she plays in Europe and It is a reference for the youngest.
Belén Potassa is 9 from the area and has more than 300 goals in her career.
Potassa played in Albacete until May 2020, leaving with 10 goals scored, and in August he joined the Córdoba Football Club, also in the Spanish Second Division.
After a long way, Today Belén fulfills her dream of living from football, and is excited to be present in another World Cup: “I train every day for that. The body still allows me to play 100%. Hopefully I can be, it would be to say goodbye to the National Team in the best way. But if it does not happen, I will be supporting whoever it is from wherever it is. There is nothing more beautiful than defending the Argentina shirt ”.
Another reference is Miriam Mayorga, who was a starter in that historic debut against Japan. Today, the 31-year-old central midfielder plays for Boca Juniors and is one of the most prominent in Argentine soccer.
All her classmates nickname her “la Doc”. At the age of 22, she left her native Bariloche to live in Buenos Aires and fulfill two dreams at the same time: to be a soccer player and to become a doctor. While training, he finished a medical degree (which he could not study in his city) and in 2019 he got the title.
The Doc chose to stay in Argentina and continue his career and playing soccer: Photo: AP / Juan Karita)
However, the emotions of that year did not end there. Despite having only 9 games wearing the Argentina shirt, his high level in local football gave him a place in the World Cup in France. On that debut against Japan, in which he played 90 minutes, he says: “It was a huge satisfaction, a dream come true. Since I was a girl I imagined it but the truth was I never thought it could be real. Once there, knowing the commitment that each player had, it only remained to give 100% to leave Argentina well represented. “
After that participation, Mayorga received several offers to play outside the country: “The World Cup is the greatest competition that one can play and a contest like this is always a good showcase. Personally, hehen the World Cup I had the chance to go play abroad, but it was never in my aspirations to leave Argentina”. They looked for the midfielder from Spain, Brazil and Colombia.
A few months after the World Cup, the first professional tournament was held in Argentina. Mayorga lived the beginning with UAI Urquiza and then passed Boca, where he already won a title, played a Libertadores and will play another this year. “I think that the Argentines who went through that moment were privileged. I see it as a recognition for so many years of work by many footballers, who no longer play but were part of history. I think it is necessary to continue working so that the clubs are more equitable among themselves, in terms of work and infrastructure, and that all the players have their contracts. But a foundation has already been laid ”.
The Doc assures that it works every day to be in the 2023 World Cup, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand. “It is the best thing that can happen to you as an athlete. Personally, having the real possibility of being in the National Team is an extra incentive ”. The profile photo of his WhatsApp is with Messi, whom he has as the maximum idol and was able to meet in a meeting prior to the World Cup in France.
In addition, Mayorga is excited about the growth of the discipline in Argentina: “In the future I see many more generations of players, something that is already being noticed in the last two years. Today there are little girls who ask to play, to go try on a club… that was not seen before, because it did not exist and perhaps because it was frowned upon. I think that growth occurs with a 50-50: on the part of the player, who really should focus on being a professional in all aspects of her life; and by the institutions, which must provide the player with the necessary tools.
Where are the other 10 starters from the debut against Japan today?
The archer, Vanina Correa, had retired from soccer in 2012 due to the birth of his twin children. It was the only one that had been present in the two previous World Cups that Argentina played, in 2003 and 2007. In 2018, it put on the gloves again in Rosario Central with the aim of playing its third World Cup. Thanks to his great performance, months after the World Cup and At 36, Correa went to Espanyol in Barcelona, getting his first experience abroad.
Vanina Correa with the Espanyol shirt. Photo Courtesy of the Espanyol Press
Eliana Stábile (defender) and Lorena Benitez (midfielder) were Boca Juniors players and to this day they continue to wear the xeneize shirt, with which, in these two years, they won a title and played a Libertadores.
Virginia Gomez, a 30-year-old midfielder, is another of the soccer players who remained in Argentine soccer: until today she played in Rosario Central throughout her career.
Front Soledad Jaimes She was a player for Lyon, a world power in the discipline, where she could not add too many minutes. After participating in France, she was signed by Santos from Brazil, a league in which she had already been a top scorer in 2017. Then, she switched to Chinese football and today she is back in Santos, completing her third cycle.
The other three footballers that made up the Argentine attack played in the Spanish League: Florencia Bonsegundo, Ruth Bravo and Estefanía Banini.
Ruth Bravo in the match in which Argentina lost to Scotland 1-0, on June 19, 2019 Photo: REUTERS / Lucy Nicholson
The first two had emigrated to Spain a year before the World Cup, after standing out in Argentine soccer. Bonsegundo had been consecrated with UAI Urquiza, being a figure. Her first experience outside the country was at Sporting de Huelva and, after France 2019, she was signed by Valencia. Bravo did the same in Boca and went to Deportivo Tacón (now extinct). After the World Cup, she became a player for Rayo Vallecano de Madrid, in the Spanish First Division.
For its part, Mendoza’s Banini has a very particular career since she never officially played in Argentine soccer. She started as a girl in Chile’s Colo-Colo, where she won 9 titles, and went through the prestigious American league playing for Washington Spirit. In 2018 he signed for Levante UD of the First Division of Spain, a club in which he plays to this day.
But, surely, the most resonant case is that of Dalila Ippolito. Although she did not enter the debut against Japan, the youth made its debut in the third game of the World Cup, against Scotland, with only 17 years. He played only 20 minutes, which was enough to win the praise of the international press. At that time she was a River Plate player. After the World Cup, she was signed by the Argentine champion, UAI Urquiza, and in 2020 she made a giant leap by emigrating to Italian football: became the first Argentine to play for Juventus, where he has already won two championships.
Official. Dalila Ippolito with the Juventus jersey. Juventus Press Photo
There is no doubt that the World Cups are an unbeatable window for soccer players. The base is already there. If the growth continues, the Argentine National Team will increasingly have a team of greater hierarchy and international experience, and in the near future it could become a powerhouse. With work, institutional support and vision for the future, added to individual talent, you can dream.
By Ivan Puga / Clarín-San Andrés Master’s Degree