The differences between women's and men's soccer: the innovative approach with which they work in the Women's U17 in Uruguay

Stefanía Maggiolini was a soccer player and today she is the technical assistant of the Uruguay Women's Under 17 (@ stemaggiolini8)
Stefanía Maggiolini was a soccer player and today she is the technical assistant of the Uruguay Women's Under 17 (@ stemaggiolini8)

At 25 years old, Stefania Maggiolini Fort ended her career as a soccer player. He had recently returned to his Uruguay Natal after six years of playing in the first division of Spain and the conditions of the discipline in her country did not motivate her to continue. In Europe he had been in contact with another reality in which the Women's Football -even with many deficiencies- he was more hierarchical and the players were more valued. That is why she decided to try to change the situation from another side: she studied to be a technical director and today, almost eight years after her retirement, she is the field assistant for the U17 women's team in Uruguay.

Like most players of her generation, Stefanía started playing soccer with the boys. His family never objected to that passion he felt for the ball. In fact, it was her grandmother, who is 88 years old today, who brought her to the court from a very young age. Beyond that loved ones always supported and encouraged their desire to play soccer, the Uruguayan was no stranger to the prejudices of a conservative society.

“I lived logical experiences from another time to see a woman playing soccer. Luckily that is changing and it no longer exists. Socially there has been a major change in recent years and I see it a lot ”, assured the coach in a telephone dialogue with Infobae from Maldonado, where his family lives.

Stefanía is clear about the exact moment in which the view regarding women's football in her country changed: the U17 World Cup that was played in Uruguay in 2018.

The former footballer took over the national team in September 2019 (AUF)
The former footballer took over the national team in September 2019 (AUF)

"Today the clubs have women on their coaches, we have children's soccer and that is a privilege, because the younger the player can develop, that is essential. Having the base is key and that does not exist in other countries. Today the girl here in Uruguay is born, she already has a ball and is offered a space to play. We have children's soccer categories Sub 14, Sub 16, Sub 19 and adults. Before that did not exist because there was little demand, women were not encouraged to show themselves by prejudice. Today they do cheer up and there are already more than 5,000 girls practicing children's soccer and 1,500 playing in the Federation"Stressed Maggiolini, who previously was DT in the female inferiors of Peñarol and Defensor Sporting.

Acceptance and naturalization. Those were the keys that made seeing a girl or a woman kicking a ball stop being taboo. Added to these factors is the growing training of coaches and the obligation of the clubs to have an older women's team and, at least, a youth category (there are many who have even more). "Today we have a large number of players and, from the Federation and from the clubs, we are trying to improve the quality of the show. For this we seek to create habits that do not exist in the players and train the coaches to provide them with the information. That is the ideal to become competitive, ”said the former footballer of Nacional de Montevideo, Rampla Juniors, L’Estartit de Cataluña, Badajoz and the Uruguayan team.

Those habits that soccer players lack are marked by the structures of society and the difference in their experiences regarding men. Stefanía explains: "The male is born and already has a space, which is the soccer school, with all its tools, with trained people and is stimulated. The boy is preparing to go to First or to go abroad for an economic matter. The woman, at least at the time when I started between 2000 and 2005, was going to participate in sport as a recreational theme, she sees it as a space where she feels contained, where her friends are, be it 11-a-side football, indoor or beach. It has no other objective, it does not have the athlete's habit of preparing to continue increasing its development and have no personal care habits like food or the body from the point of view of health ”.

From the coaching staff of the Uruguay U17 They have established a style of work in which they try to break this trend. For that, they implement strategies aimed at creating healthy habits, something that is also known as "Invisible training" and that involves nutrition and rest, among other factors. The bet is that, based on these tips, the training of the players improves and competitive teams can be achieved at the international level.

Previously, Stefanía was DT for female inferiors in Peñarol and Defensor Sporting (AUF)
Previously, Stefanía was DT for female inferiors in Peñarol and Defensor Sporting (AUF)

In Maggiolini's vision, it is essential to be aware of the specificities of women in soccer to be able to face the work in the women's teams. “We cannot say that there are women who play better than men because we are comparing pears with onions. There are differences from the anatomical and physiological point of view"He stressed.

Then he continued: "The menstrual cycle only the woman has it and we must take into account how it impacts. The same with the amount of hormones that we have. Testosterone is the hormone of aggressiveness and the man has it more concentrated, while the woman has the hormone of empathy, which is progesterone. "

"From the point of view of biomechanics and anatomy, the woman has the center of gravity at the bottom, on the hips, because it prepares the body for motherhood and You have to take into account how that influences the auction. The male, meanwhile, has it on top, in the box. So one of the corrections that are made to prevent the auction from rising is to lower the center of gravity. In women it is not necessary to make this correction because this way you will have more balance in the auction. further, the woman in her complexion has 15% more fat biologically and the man that 15% has it in muscle massThat is why it has more strength, more speed and more resistance ”, added DT.

The psychological and sociocultural point of view It is another of the peculiarities that directly affects the practice of soccer in women. Stefanía specified: "The woman is born in an environment that is conditioned and receives many messages from childhood. There are girls who play children's football with their knees in and not with more open and positioned legs. That is because they are told that a girl cannot be spread open because she is not feminine. They are psychological messages that limit them and do not allow them to develop into adulthood. Culturally, in addition, the environment does not see the practice of sport in women, then the woman does not have that space as the man does since birth. The changing rooms and stadiums also condition because they were always designed for men. The directives, meanwhile, are structures where only the male dominates. When there is no perspective of the same sport for both, it is complicated"

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Along with one of the children's teams that he directed. Today some 5,000 girls play in schools in Uruguay (@ stemaggiolini8)
Along with one of the children's teams that he directed. Today some 5,000 girls play in schools in Uruguay (@ stemaggiolini8)

Stefanía teaches at the Professional Technical Institute, where she studies to obtain the title of coach, and many of her students are surprised when she makes them notice these specificities and conditions of women's football.

Today Uruguay has a Women's First Division in which almost the same teams play as in the men's branch (Nacional, Peñarol, Defensor Sporting, River Plate of Montevideo, San Jacinto and LIverpool, among others). A few years ago, a second category, something that gave it greater dynamism and competitiveness. These clubs have, at least, a youth category of women – generally a Sub 19 – and from there they nurture their group of elders,

The coach bets that this basic training in the clubs and in the youth of the Selection can achieve make Uruguay even more competitive in the region. "We have a new long-term project. In Sub 17 we are training players to be competitive as adults. We are in a process of developing athletes and we lack work time. Many times they ask for immediate results and do not realize that time is essential to create a model. Our current U20 is a good generation and it will be competitive, but Today at the South American level we are below countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile. The idea is to keep the job and that, in five or six years, these players who are with us today can achieve something internationally, "he said.

The coronavirus pandemic suspended the activity of the Sub 17, which in April had to play the South American qualifying tournament for the World Cup in India at home. The Conmebol reprogrammed the regional contest for November of this year, while the World Cup will be in 2021. Meanwhile, the squad continue his work virtually with two or three weekly meetings in which the players participate alongside DT Santiago Ostolaza, Stefanía as technical assistant and physical trainer Laura Blanco. The trainings are not only physical, but there are also nutrition talks, recreational spaces and health education.

During the dispute of the Development League of Conmebol in Argentina
During the dispute of the Development League of Conmebol in Argentina

The part that the former footballer likes the most is the video analysis. Regarding this task, he explained: “The players have to see and understand what we want. For example, recently we saw the videos of the friendlies we played against Argentina in March. We try to show the footballers their own performance and also those of the rivals we are going to face in the South American. We want the player to start linking from a tactical and technical point of view, with an eye for analysis and vocabulary. We want them to know that we are trying to teach them many ways to defend and attack, also different game systems. We do not want to be left with only one form, with that idiosyncrasy of the country to defend, defend and attack sporadically. We want them to know that there are more options for women"

Some time ago, FIFA published a report that shows that only 7% of the federated coaches in the world are women. When asked about his references, Stefanía goes to school and only names female colleagues. Among the technical directors he admires, Sarina Wiegman (Netherlands), Jill Ellis (formerly from the United States), Corinne Diacre (France), Pía Sundhage (Swedish, today in Brazil), Mónica Vergara (Mexico) and Emily Lima stand out. (Brazilian, today in Ecuador), among others.

"Leaders or models exist because women are becoming increasingly involved in this sport that historically was for men. Here in Uruguay in recent years women have joined the technical bodies of the women's teams. I see that the former players with greater capacity do not take it as an option when leaving football, but now these models are appearing because the former players are getting involved. I stopped playing soccer not long ago and the players see in me the possibility of achieving the same at some point. Hopefully even two or three will catch it and know they can be coaches in the future, who can be leaders and examples for the gurisas (girls) who come from below. Before they always asked you who your idol was and you had to choose a man and nowadays that doesn't happen anymoreHe reflected optimistically.

These are times of change at a global level and, beyond the brake that the coronavirus pandemic may mean, Uruguay is part of that push that women's football has won. The professionalization of the First Division of Argentina had its repercussion in the country and there were some contacts between players on both sides of the Río de La Plata. In fact, the Uruguayan soccer players created their own union and managed to strengthen themselves, even in amateurism, to obtain more resources for the discipline. In this context, Nacional de Montevideo was a pioneer and became the first team to offer contracts to three of its footballers.

Maggiolini works a lot on the specificities of women in soccer (@ stemaggiolini8)
Maggiolini works a lot on the specificities of women in soccer (@ stemaggiolini8)

"If the player is not 100% dedicated to what she is doing, it is impossible to be professional. When you dedicate hours to other things, you are already conditioned by fatigue, and the issue of physical and mental care is essential. Hopefully one day the players can earn money and have benefits for the work they do, because they deserve it, "said Stefania. And, based on his personal experience, he concluded: "Many players go to another country, see other realities and then demand that there be trained people in the technical bodies in Uruguay. Hopefully they can continue dating, but not for an economic issue because not even in Europe do they earn large amounts of money, but they do learn from other cultures and bring it here. ”


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