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Out Now: Mujeres Con Pelotas


“En Argentina, hay fútbol para todos… y para todas?”

In Argentina, anyone can play football… unless you are a woman. With this, ‘Mujeres con Pelotas’ dives into an absorbing discussion about women’s football in Argentina. In a country where football is considered a basic cultural right, female players must tackle taboos, discrimination, and ridicule just to make it onto the pitch. It is, as the film’s English title explains, a ‘story of women with balls’, in more ways than one.

Girls play football in Villa 31 (photo courtesy of Mujeres con Pelotas)

Girls play football in Villa 31 (photo courtesy of Mujeres con Pelotas)

The documentary centres on the story of ‘Las Aliadas de la 31′, a team of girls in Villa 31, the sprawling shantytown hidden behind the Retiro bus and train stations. In this impoverished neighourhood, as far away as you can get from the glamour of professional football, the girls overcome personal trials and break social norms to pursue their passion for the sport.

Leading from the front is Mónica Santino, coach of ‘Las Aliadas’ and relentless campaigner for women’s football. The camera follows Santino, who sports a tattoo of a football hovering above the famous Rolling Stones ‘tongue’, as she clears groups of boys from the dusty playing field, deals with indifferent authorities, and guides the girls both on and off the pitch as they prepare for the ‘Homeless World Cup’ in Brazil.

It was Santino and the girls in Villa 31 that inspired filmmakers Ginger Gentile and Gabriel Balanovsky to begin work on a documentary in 2008. As the project developed, their story became the jumping off point for a broader investigation into the state of women’s football in Argentina. A little over five years later, and after successful screenings in this year’s BAFICI, the film will be on limited public release from today.

“We are hoping to achieve two key things with the film,” says Gentile. “Firstly, to find support for Mónica in her dream of founding the first female football club in Argentina, and second to make the sport more visible. When a girl’s team wins a tournament overseas there is nothing in the news, and many fans don’t even know their club has a women’s team.”

“It’s crazy that half the population is left out of something so bound to Argentine culture,” adds Balanovsky.

The 75-minute documentary gathers voices of women and men from many fields – players, coaches, journalists, fans – to discuss the social difficulties facing female footballers. In vastly different contexts, the girls share experiences of discrimination at both a personal (“you must be a lesbian!) and societal (“girls don’t have the genetics for football”) level. Sometimes the friction comes from within the family, often, surprisingly, from the female members. “They would tell us that men wouldn’t let them play, but when we asked for names, it was ‘my mother’, or ‘my aunt’,” says Gentile.

At an institutional level, it is indifference and a lack of support, rather than direct opposition, that perhaps represent that biggest obstacles to developing women’s football. From the squad at Estudiantes that had to lie down on the club’s training pitch to prevent the men’s team from taking their slot, to the Boca Juniors players who have to travel over five hours at their own expense to train, it is clear from the film that clubs are not too interested in the women’s teams. And while the Argentine Football Association (AFA) says it wants to encourage female participation, its limited resources are almost all funnelled into the men’s game. As a result, as women’s football expands and becomes more professional in other countries, the number of registered club teams in Argentina has fallen from 24 to 12.

However, while the governing body shirks responsibility, change is happening from the bottom-up. “Compared to when we began filming [in 2008], women are playing a lot more,” says Balanovsky, noting that the number of girls playing in Villa 31 has increased from eight to around 60. “Society has advanced a great deal in dealing with certain prejudices, and I think it is now more open to this type of debate.”

If that is true, then ‘Mujeres Con Pelotas’ can offer an important contribution, not least because the filmmakers are working with local authorities to try and bring girls from poor neighbourhoods to special screenings in the city.

The film also makes its strongest point when it allows the football to do the talking. Extended montages of ‘Las Aliadas’ training are a real highlight: here, away from the multitude of opinions and arguments of others about their validity as footballers, the girls are allowed to get on with what they enjoy most.

After all, giving them the opportunity to play football is what this is all about, and watching them is perhaps the most effective way to change sexist attitudes — one goal at a time.

Mujeres con Pelotas will be shown at Cine Gaumont (Av. Rivadavia 1635, $8) at 11.45am and 7.50pm daily from 9th to 14th May.

It will be screened at the Sala Cultural San Martín (Sarmiento 1551, $20) on Thursday 8th and 15th May at 8pm; Saturday 10th and 17th May at 8pm; Saturday 24th and 31st May at 5.30pm; and Sunday 1st June at 5.30pm.

For more information about the documentary and showings around Argentina, or about how to support Mónica Santino, visit the website or Facebook page.

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4 Responses to “Out Now: Mujeres Con Pelotas”

  1. We will be showing the film in the Club Matienzo, Pringles 1249, this Wednesday June 18th at 9pm.


  1. […] we released our last documentary, ‘Mujeres con Pelotas‘ [Goals for Girls], everybody loved us!” explains Balanovsky. Mujeres con Pelotas follows a […]

  2. […] we released our last documentary, ‘Mujeres con Pelotas‘ [Goals for Girls], everybody loved us!” explains Balanovsky. Mujeres con Pelotas follows a […]

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