It is September 2006 and Chilean football has several surprises. O’Higgins and Deportes Puerto Montt have shown great football and closely follow Cobreloa, who leads the general table of the Clausura Tournament.
However, far from our country, the FIFA Executive Committee gives the national Football Federation even more shocking news: Chile will organize the U20 Women’s World Cup 2008.
It would be the most important sporting event in decades. The Government of Michelle Bachelet committed to the construction of stadiums, Harold Mayne-Nicholls and the ANFP had incessant meetings and the players… and the players?
If the choice of Chile as the World Cup venue was surprising for something, it was not the lack of stadiums with FIFA standards or the opaque level of the national teams, but the lack of concern for women’s football.
Just in August 2007, almost a year after the appointment, La Roja had DT for their star date. The Spanish Marta Tejedor he would take charge, not only of the World Cup team, but also of promoting the ailing women’s football.
FILE | The fourth
After months of work, it was possible to form a team that finished last in its group, behind powers such as England, Nigeria and New Zealand, but left good feelings.
In it, names such as Geraldine Leyton, María Francisca Mardones, Daniela Pardo, Daniela Zamora and, of course, Christiane Endler stood out. The foundation was laid for a team that would be the talk of the future.
More desire than football
After the 2008 World Cup, women’s football grew in our country and its professionalization began to take shape. To this day, however, there is much room for improvement.
It was constant that the precarious conditions to train, the lack of contracts or the lack of coverage for injuries tarnished the motivation that more and more women showed for football.
But there were exceptions. Some few clubs, Colo Colo and Everton being the flagship ships, They promised to invest in their women’s teams and that was reflected in the record, with a Copa Libertadores for the ‘Cacique’ included in 2012.
But the interest was gradually lost. At the same time that players such as Claudia Soto, Yanara Aedo, Francisca Lara or Karen Araya matured, the shortcomings in the local championship were increasingly evident.
“We had to experience machismo in the first person for many years. That ‘football is for men’. That ‘women are boring’. We went through everything, ”Aedo acknowledged at the time.
FILE | Colo Colo
And it is that while the women’s team begged for the interest of the ANFP, the men’s team rubbed shoulders with the greats and the rankings for South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 contrasted with the irregular campaigns of their female counterpart.
Eliminations in the first round of the South American Sub 20 and Sub 17 and also in Copa América, did not motivate anyone to play it for women’s football that did not have positive results. Without investment, how do you hope to achieve goals?
The desire to achieve important things was there but, no matter how much intention they had to defeat powers such as Argentina or Brazil, it took more than a couple of players in major leagues to defeat much stronger teams.
The first rock
It is July 2016. The obtaining of the Copa América Centenario in the United States is still being celebrated, the Footballers’ Union (Sifup) and the ANFP are on the warpath for a call for paralysis and, far from all the cameras, it is taking carried out the most important step for the professionalization of national women’s football.
The National Association of Female Soccer Players (ANJUFF) saw the light and thus laid a foundation for women’s football to approach its professionalization.
It was good news among bad news, like the Audax announcement
Italian and Spanish Union, two founding clubs of the local tournament, to end their women’s branch. “Women’s soccer doesn’t have enough support or diffusion to be able to sustain it,” said Johnny Ashwell, manager of the Hispanics at the time.
Anjuff did his thing, but the clubs didn’t. The local championship continued to stand out due to the lack of contracts, and the non-payment of remuneration forced the players to combine studies or professional careers with training and running behind the ball for the love of art.
Aware that they had to do something, the ANFP promised to look after the interests of women’s football and put the head of the National Teams to Jose Letelier, the most experienced Chilean coach in the discipline. Little by little progress was made.
FILE | ANFP
April 2017. While Colo Colo caresses her twelfth title in the local women’s tournament, an announcement is made official from the ANFP: Chile will host the 2018 Copa América Femenina.
It was time to show on the field that the historical damage to women’s football had forged a generation of empowered players hungry for success.
It’s March 2018. The inhabitants of La Serena flock to La Portada stadium to look for tickets for the women’s La Roja debut in the women’s Copa América.
There is expectation. Much is expected of Letelier’s work after a year at the helm of the National Team. The players do not believe the atmosphere they have created: many went from begging for a court to train to being asked selfies and autographs.
April 4 arrived, the moment of truth. In a crowded La Portada stadium in La Serena, Chile makes its debut against a tough Paraguay equaling 1-1. Christiane Endler is a figure, Yanara Aedo scored the national goal, the coach is not satisfied.
Two days later the same score against Colombia. 2 points in the same number of games is not the harvest that Letelier expected. The first doubts and questions appear, but the players know that they have what it takes to become historical.
FILE | UNO Agency
Then, a tight victory over Uruguay and a win over Peru: Chile advanced to the second round and, together with Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, define the two and a half places at the 2019 World Cup in France.
Brazil gives La Roja a bath of reality in the first duel of the homerun, with a 3-1 that could have been much more bulky were it not for Endler, who already showed his talent in the French Paris Saint-Germain.
Then again Colombia and again a draw. The duel against Argentina would be life or death and so those led by Letelier knew.
“They are going to go out to fight, they are a super warrior team, very physical. We have no choice but to go out and win with everything against Argentina “, Endler anticipated.
And boy did they give it their all. An early goal by Camila Sáez opened the 4-0 win in favor of Chile, who thus qualified for their first Women’s World Cup and won the Olympic Repechage spot: they were historic.
The eyes that pointed to La Serena during the Copa América allowed several stars, such as Sáez, Carla Guerrero, Yanara Aedo and Karen Araya, to make the leap to foreign football, showing that the squad was ready for big things and the hunger for victory remained intact.
It is June 2019. Santiago Morning has burst into the First Women’s Division of our country with an investment that seeks the professionalization of its squad and that, to a lesser extent, is imitated by teams such as Colo Colo, Universidad de Chile and Fernández Vial . Now yes, seriously, the clubs were doing their part.
But the looks are now pointing to Europe. In France, La Roja prepares for their World Cup debut against Sweden, a power that grows over the years in terms of women’s football.
Making a good impression is key, getting a good better result, because the second opponent is USA, a team whose level is stratospherically higher than the Chilean and the other 22 teams in the tournament.
Against the Swedes, Letelier’s pupils fell 0-2 and, against the Americans, despite the predictions of at least nine goals, they lost 0-3 with a brilliant performance – again – by Tiane Endler. Versus ThailandOn the third date, Chile played their qualification to the round of 16.
They had to win by three goals difference and an own goal, added to both María José Urrutia, they anticipated that the feat was possible. However, a missed penalty in the final minutes by Francisca Lara, wiped out any chance of advancing to the round.
The image of the historic midfielder lamenting and her “conchetumadre” in slow motion monopolized the covers and memes, showing that much of Chile followed what was so far the most important match for women’s football in our country.
FILE | UNO Agency
But the sport gives revenge, well know all the soccer players who have passed through La Roja. And this time he appears in the middle of the space for the Tokyo Olympics, place that they will play in two duels against Cameroon.
After several postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, finally this Saturday, April 10, the Chilean women collide with the African ‘lionesses’.
Endler prepares the covers, Guerrero refines the orders, Aedo wants goals and Lara prepares a mother’s draw but with happiness, because that generation of women who started with nothing today wants to win everything.