It was the same with the 2006/07 squad – the team that won us the Copa América. It was an extraordinary team. I remember a meeting with the federation’s top brass when I said to them: “Let’s look after these girls with a salary, a per diem… anything. These players are different to anything we’ve had before, they can achieve a lot.”
But they didn’t listen.
I’d call the girls to go to a tournament and most of them would reply: “Carlos, if I tell my boss that I’m skipping work because I have to go away with the national football team, they’re going to say: ‘No problem, just don’t come back.’”
Every one of them needed an income and that team just broke apart.
Fortunately, what’s happened in the last two years with women’s football in Argentina has changed our history. I applaud all the coverage that our sport is getting. I also think it’s in line with a shift in the cultural paradigm.
Previously, families, parents didn’t encourage their daughters to play football. On the contrary, they would say it was a boys’ game.
Today, it’s quite the opposite. That taboo is starting to fade away.
“We might receive flowers today, but thorns tomorrow. That’s how this game goes”
The professionalisation of our women’s football, which we achieved in March, is another victory and a great first step – at least in order to safeguard the new generation coming forward.
Now, there has to be continuity. As time goes by, we’ll have to make adjustments to the money side of things. At the same time, we have to take care of another issue that’s just as important as wages: early player development.
Today, that’s the biggest shortcoming in Argentinian women’s football. And I don’t just mean in terms of technical skills or the sport itself. We have to work on things such as team cohesion, support for players when someone might have to be on the bench for two games or more in a row. You can only really cultivate that when you play team sport early on in life.
It’s the same with order and discipline. In the national side, we deal with players from different clubs. Some of the sides do a great job; others, not so great. But we have to level things out.
Unfortunately, some sides are laidback about order and schedules, and accountability. So we have some players who are late for training or just do as they please. These girls view football from their own perspective. They think: “I can get away with it. At the end of the day, they’ll give me the number 10 shirt and I’ll play anyway.”
You have to teach that early on. It’s a task that may take a decade, or even two – at least until we can come up with a development pathway. After that, you know that between each different age group, the changeover will feed naturally into the adult team. It’s going to take time, but it’s important to make the modifications.