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We Play Like Women

Marbella Ibarra: Trailblazer of women’s football in Mexico

The power of football to provide hope and an escape from desperate situations is well documented and ought to supersede gender. Marbella “Mar” Ibarra recognised this power and saw no reason for women to lose out on its benefits simply because of their gender. Thus she devoted herself to the development and promotion of women’s football in Mexico, in doing so she became a revered pioneer of the sport. Given the scale of the change that Mar instigated it’s only right to celebrate all that she has accomplished in her life.

Football is a male-dominated environment the world over, especially so in Mexico, and so someone extremely passionate and driven was needed to lead the fight for women’s football; Mar encompassed these traits and so much more. Until fairly recently Mexico did not have a professional women’s football league and this was exactly what Mar set out to change. Mar’s first step towards that goal came in 2013 when she founded Isamar FC, an amateur women’s team based in Tijuana, Baja California. Tijuana, where Mar came to call home, suffers from high levels of violence and, for many, football provides the opportunity to escape from this violence on a daily basis. A year later and after much campaigning, Mar approached a professional men’s club to convert her amateur team into a professional squad as part of the club and was successful. Las Xolas de Tijuana was founded in 2014 as the first professional women’s team in Mexico with Mar as founder and Technical Director. The stage was set for the evolution of women’s football but there was still a lot of work to be done.

“The ball has started to roll towards the women’s side and no one can stop it.” - Marbella Ibarra

“The ball has started to roll towards the women’s side and no one can stop it.” - Marbella Ibarra

Infrastructure for teams to play competitively at a high level was lacking, with Mar forced to turn to the US for her team to play in tournaments and leagues. Then, in what can be described as one of Mar’s greatest legacies, the Liga MX Femenil was created in 2017. This was a huge achievement and the league continues to get bigger and better with every year but Mar didn’t stop there. Even though there now existed an environment for women to play professionally a lot of women still needed help and support in getting there. Institutions to bridge the gap between amateur and professional football were few and far between leaving many aspiring, talented players struggling to make their way to the top. As was the nature of Mar, she saw a problem and set out to fix it. It isn’t due to a lack of talent that thousands of women and girls are unable to play professionally but due to a lack of monetary resources or logistical support. She founded the organisation FutFem Sin Fronteras earlier this year to provide women and girls with resources and support to be able to play professionally. With the creation of this organisation Mar’s legacy will continue on for many generations and will touch the lives of numerous girls and women. 

We may never know the reasons behind the killing of Marbella Ibarra but it’s safe to say that she lived to give hope and make the lives of other women better. Her fight was emblematic of global struggles for equality in sport and more widely for gender equality in Mexico. The mark she has made on women’s football is evident and the impact she will continue to have after her death will be felt for years to come. Women’s football owes a lot to Marbella Ibarra and the best way to honour her will be to never give up the fight and make sure she is never forgotten. 

International Updates

As the domestic club seasons come to a close across the world, players are turning their focus towards representing their country in international matches. The World Cups for 3 different categories are soon approaching and so there have been a string of matches in the build-up to these tournaments. 

U-17

The U-17 World Cup starts on 13th November in Uruguay and some teams are still battling it out to qualify. The U-17 CONCACAF Championship, which will decide which 3 teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean qualify for the World Cup, is just coming to an end. The 3rd palce play-off is between Canada and Haiti, whilst the final is between Mexico and the USA. The current holders of the U-17 World Cup title are the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), will they be able to hold on to the title this year?

U-20

The U-20 World Cup will take place in France on 5th August and the holders of this title are also the DPRK. The tournament boasts a number of strong teams including the USA, Germany, England and France who will all be trying to knock the DPRK off the top spot. Notably Canada is missing from the competition after failing to qualify through the CONCACAF Championship. 

 

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Women's World Cup

Then in 2019 comes the Women's World Cup to be held in France. The race is on across the world to qualify for the pinnacle of international football. Asia, Europe and South America all already have a number of teams that have qualified including Brazil, Italy, Spain, Japan, China and Australia. Tournaments in Africa, North, Central America and the Caribbean and Oceania will take place towards the end of 2018. All eyes will be on 2015 winners the USA as they start their qualifying campaign in October. It's going to be an exciting few months for women's international football!

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Champions League Final 2018

Two of Europe's best teams battled it out in Kyiv this week to be crowned Champions of Europe. You might think I'm talking about Liverpool and Real Madrid but no - there are 2 Champions League Finals this week and each one is a showcase of exceptional footballing talent. 

Lyon faced Wolfsburg on Thursday in the Final of the Women's Champions League and it certainly wasn't lacking in quality as some might suggest. The match was a great display of athleticism and perseverance as the 2 teams fought over 120 minutes to try and clinch the title for their team. It was Lyon who came out on top with an unexpected scoreline of 4-1 to become 2018 champions.

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During the first 90 minutes of the match, neither team managed to create anything special to put their team in front thus after regular time it ended goalless. So an extra 30 minutes was necessary to settle the tie. Just 3 minutes into extra time, Pernille Harder's shot was deflected past the keeper to put Wolfsburg 1-0 up, which gave us the sense that extra time would be more eventful than the first 90 minutes. Eventful it was! Barely minutes after their goal Wolfsburg suffered a big setback as Alexandra Popp was shown a second yellow card meaning they were down to 10 players. Lyon must've felt it was now or never as they threw everything they had at Wolfsburg and scored 3 goals in the space of 6 minutes. To top it all off Lyon player Camille Abily scored in the last minutes of the game in what was her last performance for the club. With a 4-1 scoreline Lyon comfortably won a record 5th Champions League title, can they make it 6 titles in 2019?

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LIGA MX FEMENIL

The Mexican Women’s league came to a close on 4th May with the UANL Tigres holding off the fierce competition from the Rayados of Monterrey to become 2018 champions. The 2nd leg was destined to be a close match given that the 1st leg ended in a 2-2 draw, and close it was. It seemed like Tigres would win the game 2-1 as the game moved into added time but Norali Armenta of Monterrey had other ideas as she bagged a last minute header to bring the game to 2-2 at full time.

Extra time came and went with no more goals and so to penalties it was. Monterrey missed their first penalty and in doing so set up Tigres for a win. Tigres then took full advantage of this by scoring all of their kicks and so won the game 4-2 on penalties. This makes Tigres only the second team to win the Liga MX Femenil after Chivas won the inaugural competition last year. Women’s football in Mexico just keeps getting bigger and better!

See here for a video of the highlights - http://deportes.televisa.com/futbol/videos-tigres-campeon-la-liga-mx-femenil/  

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Women's Champions League 2018

The teams that will compete in the final of the Women’s Champions League have been decided. Over the 2 legs in their respective semi-finals Lyon Fémenines came out on top against Manchester City and Wolfsburg Ladies beat Chelsea. This means once again no English team has made it to the final - with the last time being in 2007 when Arsenal won the trophy. The final of Lyon v Wolfsburg will be played in Kyiv on 24th May. 

For more information: https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/43898909

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