I wished I was a boy.
Updated: May 3, 2019
It took me 10 years to see another girl touching a soccer ball.
For years I wished I was a boy. Don't get me wrong, I loved being a girl. I believe I did everything a girl was “supposed” to do. I fell in love with the cute boy in first grade, I danced to the Spice girls during my school recess, I loved Ariel from Disney movies, my favorite Barbie was the Hawaiian one, and sometimes I would even wear a flowery dress with sparkling pink shoes.
But for years, I just wished I was a boy.
I was born in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. Yes, Rio de Janeiro is not the capital, and it has not been since 1960. I had a lot of freedom like any other kid born in the 90s in Brazil. Despite the time I was in school, all of my day was played in the streets. I grew up playing barefoot, climbing trees, eating fresh fruits, playing PVC pipe gun war (we use rocks instead of seeds), soda can on a bike wheel, bottle cap sand races, and of course, a lot of soccer. The only purpose to get my flip-flops out of my closet was to make a new set of goals for the next 2v2 competition.
I do not know exactly when I started liking soccer. I always find it weird when people say “Hey, my name is … and I have played soccer since I was 7”. I am sorry, but my mom did not take a prom pic of me going to my first tournament. Where I was born, playing soccer was not an event. It was the same thing as learning how to ride a bike or tying your shoes. You do not remember the first time you have done any of these things.
It just happens naturally.
Similar to all my guy friends, my love for soccer happened naturally as well. I played in the streets, between cars, in the sand, in the grass, inside the house, and in the garage. I played with a soccer ball, or volleyball, or tennis ball, or a ball made out of paper, socks, tape, rocks, doll clothes, and...
… PLEASE, for the sake of our playing time, do NOT forget:
and more tape to finish the last layer of our homemade/final-of-world cup soccer ball.
I played soccer early in the morning, later in the afternoon, and in the dark knowing that I would get in trouble once I got home. I played soccer under car lights and through parents yelling. The street between building D and F was the best street on which to play soccer after 7 pm, because it had brighter lights.
I grew up playing many, MANY, many World Cup finals. Because every game was a 2vs2 with 10+ kids waiting for their turn, the games were very serious and dangerous.
Like Brazil vs. Argentina game in La Bombonera.
Not even the blood on the front of my toes after kicking so hard the (also very HARD) concrete stopped me. After repetitive falls, showering was like the Matrix movie, with me trying to dodge water instead of bullets (which felt like bullets) and avoiding any contact to my skinned knees, elbow, and especially, my skinned big toe. I loved the game so much. At age 8, I loved soccer more than anything.
Nothing was more intriguing and exciting.
However, it took me 10 years to see another girl, like me, touching a soccer ball. Therefore, for many years, I wished I was a boy.
If I had been a boy I would not have been the different kid playing in the field, I would not have received so many mean comments at age 7 and 8. I would not have been the “bad influence” on other girls in the moms' eyes, and I would not have heard “locker room” jokes. If I had been a boy, people would not have assumed that I could not play, people would not have thought I was not "good enough", perhaps people would not laugh at my favorite outfit (Topper futsal shoes + soccer shorts + Flamengo jersey).
If I had been a boy I would have been allowed to play in tournaments. People would have smiled when I told them “I want to be a soccer player when I grow up,” and people would not have looked at me differently. IF, for at least the first 10 years (because God knows how painful those years were) I were a boy, I would not have felt that I was doing something deeply wrong. If I were a boy, then perhaps people would NOT have constantly questioned my sexuality just because I loved soccer.
You know... each country has its own culture, beliefs and fears. As a Brazilian, I do not expect every person who reads this to understand my experiences. Around the world, girls experience different realities when they decide to play soccer. However in a world where girls and women are constantly limited, looked down upon, and treated like they are less capable to DO or to BE anything. I bet that every girl who has decided to play soccer has at some point wished they were a boy.
I plan to speak back to this world. I hope this blog inspires young soccer players to DO and BE anything. I hope this blog enables coaches and parents to better support girls as they develop into confident people and leaders both on and off the soccer field.
You will read testimonials from professional players and coaches about how they overcame obstacles and difficult situations related to their gender. I will share with you about my own experience playing in Brazil, coaching in the United States, and playing in Denmark and all contrast those experiences have. Differences in development, mentality, culture, and passion. More important, you will be able to see how many talents and powerful soccer leaders WE could have lost due to gender prejudice and inequality.
I will also analyze and invite discussions about research, book, and articles about gender and equity issues in soccer and sports. I will provide lesson plans and suggestions to coaches about designing training sessions to empower girls. I’m excited because we have a lot of training and thinking to do together.
In this blog, I invite you -- soccer players, coaches, parents, and educators -- to take a position in helping girls as young as 8 feel powerful as young girls and as soccer players.
This is just the beginning.