Boca Juniors have beaten River Plate in the final of Argentina’s first ever women’s professional championship, thrashing their fierce rivals 7-0 to cap off the 2020/21 ‘transition tournament’.
Boca were already Argentina’s most successful female club, with 23 titles won in the amateur era prior to 2020. However, Argentina’s national federation (AFA) laid out a new strategy for women’s football last autumn, which included a pledge for 12 players on every team to be on professional contracts.
Kicking off in November, a shortened version of the Campeonato de Futbol Femenino was held to begin the new era, known as the ‘transition tournament’ from amateur to professional.
Restoring their dominance after finishing as runner-up four years in a row, prior to the coronavirus pandemic forcing the abandonment of the 2019/20 season, Boca emerged on top to begin the new chapter and professional era for women’s football in Argentina.
Veteran stars Andrea Ojeda and Fabiana Vallejos both netting braces in the final, with Clarisa Huber, Yamila Rodriguez and national team star Lorena Benitez also on the scoresheet.
History of women's football in Argentina
The AFA has previously been criticised for a lack of investment in women’s football and the national team effectively ceased to exist for a brief period as recently as 2016.
Failure to qualify for the 2015 World Cup in Canada had resulted in the AFA cutting all funding and there was no money to keep the team going. As a result, there were more than two years when Argentina’s women didn’t play a single game and subsequently lost their FIFA ranking.
Even when they did get some money to carry on, it was not enough. Players were entitled to the equivalent of £7 for training expenses, but those payments didn’t arrive on time and there was often little to no budget for accommodation or travel, meaning long and arduous journeys to games.
The national team players eventually went on strike in 2017 and set out their demands to the AFA, which included just the most basic of things like access to suitable facilities to train and play.
Although still fighting for equality, the 2019 World Cup was a watershed moment for Argentina. They overachieved, drawing their opening game against 2011 champions Japan - their first ever World Cup game that didn’t end in defeat - before a resolute performance in a narrow defeat to England and a late comeback to draw 3-3 against Scotland. They conceded only four goals in three games, compared to 18 in 2007 and 15 in 2003, and didn’t finish bottom of the group.
The AFA finally took more action to properly support the growth, development and sustainability of women’s football in Argentina and the five-year strategy that covers the period from 2021 to 2025 also demands that top flight clubs have mandatory Under-19, Under-16 and Under-14 teams by 2023, and an increase to 15 players on professional contracts.