Sport

Trailblazing trans footballer bursts into tears after rival team’s beautiful display of acceptance

Nick Duffy December 8, 2020
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Transgender footballer Mara Gomez of Villa San Carlos vies for the ball with Luciana Nievas of Lanus

Mara Gómez of Villa San Carlos vies for the ball with Luciana Nievas of Lanus (Getty/JUAN MABROMATA)

Transgender footballer Mara Gómez has made her debut playing for a woman’s club in Argentina after a months-long wait for approval to do so.

The striker, who previously played for Toronto City, made history in January when she was signed for top-tier Argentine football club Villa San Carlo.

However, the signing was stalled amid extensive talks with the Argentine Football Association, which had no policy on transgender players, over questions on whether she would have an unfair advantage.

Gómez was given the go-ahead to play this month, after blood tests showed her testosterone levels are no higher than those of cisgender women, meeting requirements set by the International Olympic Committee for transgender athletes.

Mara Gómez plays first match after ‘perseverance and sacrifice’

Gómez made her debut at a match on Monday (7 December) as Villa San Carlos faced Athletic Club Lanus, with any suggestions of an unfair advantage put paid to by the 7-1 victory for Lanus.

The player was surprised with a beautiful welcome gesture after the game, as Lanus players gifted her an opposition shirt with her name on it – causing her to burst into tears with happiness.

Mara Gomez of Villa San Carlos reacts emotionally as she is given a jersey of Lanus with her name on it
Mara Gómez of Villa San Carlos reacts emotionally as she is given a jersey of Lanus with her name on it (Getty/JUAN MABROMATA)

In a statement ahead of the match, the club had said: “The long-awaited approval has arrived for Mara Gómez to play the matches corresponding to the Transition Tournament 2020 of the First Division Women’s Soccer championship.

“After an immense fight and after a long wait, Mara Stefania Gómez is able to take up our colours. This news is a historic and unprecedented event for women’s soccer, being the first trans player to play professionally.

“The coach, Juan Cruz Vitale will be able to count on the player for the match against Club Atlético Lanús, corresponding to the second date of the current contest.

“We thank the president of Argentine Soccer, Claudio Tapia, for the steps taken to approve Mara Gómez in our soccer. Likewise, we thank everyone who made this possible. Everything comes with perseverance and sacrifice.”

Mara Gómez poses with a jersey of Lanus with her name on it given as present after an Argentina first division female football match
Mara Gómez poses with a jersey of Lanus with her name on it given as present after an Argentina first division female football match (Getty/JUAN MABROMATA)

Trans footballer insists she doesn’t have an advantage

Speaking to HuffPost in February, Gómez said: “On the field, you can have speed and strength, but that doesn’t help you if you don’t know how to play football.

“I always hold up the example of Messi… He measures 1.6 meters (5 foot, 7 inches) and is the best player in the world.”

She also talked about a match early in her career when she faced complaints from the other team that she had an unfair advantage – even though she had played so badly she’d scored an own goal.

“They put me on defence but I didn’t know how to play well. I put a goal in my own net,” she said.

“When the first half ended I found out the other team had complained that I shouldn’t play because I put them at a disadvantage. They considered my [gender identity] a disadvantage for them even though I was playing so poorly.”

The Villa San Carlos coach, Juan Cruz Vitale, also rejected claims that Mara Gómez has an unfair advantage because of being trans.

He said that she first caught his eye because of her speed and her ability to score goals, and that “we talk of strength, I have at least five or six girls who are stronger than her. On that side I don’t see that there is an advantage.”

Related topics: Argentina, football, Mara Gomez

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