In 2019, a group of mostly black women from Betim, in the Belo Horizonte metropolitan area, accompanied their husbands to weekly soccer matches in the central area of the city.
It was then that the desire to change the position of spectators for that of protagonists on the field arose. They began to rent the space to play ball at the end of the day. It was there that the Galácticas Futebol Clube was born, an amateur soccer team that, since then, started to operate in the region of Vianópolis, on the outskirts of Betim.
From a simple team, the initiative evolved into a project that works on issues such as female empowerment and racism.
Psychologist Jéssica Silva, 27, was one of the founders of the club. “I ended my career with 20 minutes because I’m sedentary, but, in my defense, I scored a goal before spitting my lung on the lawn”, she jokes.
Despite not being able to keep up as a player, Jessica saw in the team the opportunity to promote female protagonism among her colleagues.
She created the project Play Like a Woman —Jogue como uma mulher, in the Portuguese translation—, which was selected in February this year by The IVLP Impact Award, from the US Department of State, with a budget of US$ 4,000 (about of BRL 21 thousand).
The resource financed equipment for the team, in addition to promoting meetings with professional players Ana Lourenço (Atlético Mineiro) and Maria Eduarda (Flamengo and Brazilian national team) and a workshop with North Americans Elizabeth Cox, specialist in physical conditioning, and Timothy Bryson , coach.
“The project expands the horizons of these women, it brings the possibility of professionalization, of facing football as a career in Brazil and abroad”, says Jessica.
Game breaks are used to debate issues such as gender inequality, female empowerment and well-being.
“The team popularized a phrase, which is always repeated: it’s not just football. They start to feel safe talking about their own demons”, says Jessica.
It was through these conversations that women were referred to social assistance in the municipality, after the project identified situations of social vulnerability.
The project team also maintains partnerships with the Reference Center for Assistance to Women, of the Municipality of Betim, and with the Women’s Police Station, for guidance on domestic violence. “To date, it has not happened, but we are attentive and we have a support network in case there is any violence against them.”
More than 200 women have passed through the amateur club in the three years of operation. Currently, Galácticas has 35 players, between 12 and 44 years old.
The most experienced, Sueli Oliveira, 44, works with social projects and is one of the founders of the team. Passionate about football since she was a child, she had few opportunities to play ball throughout her life, in a sport that is more identified with the male gender.
In fact, the 1941 decree, signed by Getúlio Vargas, prohibited women from practicing sports “incompatible with the conditions of their nature”, including soccer.
The text was only suspended in 1979, when Sueli was one year old. Today, she sees sport as leisure, but the project brought back her dream of a career.
“In the talk with the Americans, they said that older women are valued abroad in women’s football. That turned on a light. Who knows, maybe I’ll get something out there?”, he says.
Personal trainer Franciele Melo, 24, is also planning a career in soccer, but as a coach. She dreams of playing for Cruzeiro, her favorite team, but she would also like to join Corinthians’ coaching staff.
Franciele believes that this is a space that needs to be occupied by black women. “Opportunities for black women are reduced not only in the sports area, but in all areas. We have to seek this representativeness.”
Despite the desire to command a team, Franciele is inspired by the player Formiga, owner of one of the longest careers in Brazilian women’s football and who is preparing to comment on the World Cup on TV Globo.
“When you strengthen a woman in one aspect of her life, she is strengthened in others and this generates a chain reaction. So, these women are more decided about where they want to be, where they can be, and they influence other women”, she says. psychologist Jessica Silva.
Amateur teams from the region will face each other in 11 matches, with prizes for the winning team and for the best athletes. This time, the husbands will be the spectators.