By Gwen Oxenham
Gwen Oxenham is the author of Finding the Game and coproducer of the documentary film Pelada. A Duke University soccer alum, she played professionally for Santos FC in Brazil in 2005. Gwen received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Notre Dame and currently teaches English and plays in pickup games in Southern California.
In 2004, I played futebol feminino for Santos FC. We hitchhiked to practice, shared our field with a horse, slept four or five girls to a room, wore XL hand-me-downs from the men, did plyometrics over make-shift cardboard hurdles and often ran sprints on the main highway, occupying a lane, cars swerving around us.
This experience made me wonder about the women’s football happening in the rest of the world: If this was what futebol feminino looked like in Brazil, the mecca of futebol, what does the women’s game look like in other countries? What’s it like to be a female player in Ecuador? In Côte d’Ivoire? In Argentina? Like Brenda Elsey and Joshua Nadel noted in “Marimachos: On Women’s Football in Latin America,” television networks and newspapers are slow to cover even big events like World Cup qualifying tournaments. If media outlets don’t even cover outcomes, how little is out there about the actual experiences of women footballers?