One of the lasting memories of the current Women’s World Cup will surely be the retirement of Brazilian legend Marta, who took an emotional exit from the sport after her team was eliminated by Jamaica in the group stage.
The top scorer in World Cup history responded to a journalist’s question by reminding everyone, players and reporters alike, how far they’d come.
“You know what’s great? When I started there was no female star. You wouldn’t show women’s games. How could I dream of playing for my country and being a star?” said Marta, who has scored at five different World Cups in her storied career.
“Twenty years later we have become symbols for the rest of the world. Not only in football, but also in journalism. Now we see women here, and we wouldn’t have seen that before. In the end, we opened the door to equality,” the Brazilian star said, referring to reporters present at her press conference.
A witness to the changes described by Marta is Daniella López Guajardo, who acted as announcer for Telemundo during the tournament. Recently, Torreon native Coahuila was part of the first all-female commentary team for Spanish-language television in the United States. In 18 games of this World Cup, Lopez Guajardo was joined by Janelly Farías, Kenti Robles, Isabella Echeverrí and Diana Rincón.
“It’s an honor to announce games that go beyond football and become important moments for these players,” said López Guajardo. “It is a great responsibility to be the first woman to broadcast games in Spanish for US television. It is a great responsibility to convey my experience to people.”
Women’s football is attracting growing interest around the world, and not just from the players on the field and the journalists behind the microphones. During the 1991 World Cup there were only six female referees, all line assistants, with the exception of Claudia Vasconcelos, who acted as referee for the third-place play-off.
By 1995, seven of the 12 referees were women and one woman was the referee in the final. And in 1999 all officials were women.
However, there is still a long way to go.
For example, there is still a lack of female managers. During this World Cup, the first started with 32 teams, with 12 women leading a national team. It was the same percentage as the last World Cup in 2019 when 24 teams took part – 37.5%
For Echeverrí, now retired after a playing career, it’s special to be part of the change that has taken place over the last decade. She mentioned that when she started her career as a professional player, there were no female managers.
“As a society, we are changing. Women should always have been part of the football ecosystem, but now we are seeing a real change,” said Echeverrí. “It’s just the beginning of a revolution on and off the pitch.”
One of the most emotional moments of the tournament for his women’s group was the match between Colombia and Germany. One of the surprises of the tournament was that Colombia defeated Germany in a close 1-0 game, allowing the South American team to advance to the knockout rounds.
Echeverrí, originally from Medellín, Colombia, said it was a special moment when her colleagues scored the winning goal.
“It was a revelation, especially working with three other women during a Colombia game,” said Echeverrí. “When I was playing, you didn’t hear any comments from women and you didn’t talk about football.”
Telemundo’s team also includes Spain’s Natalia Astrain, former Barcelona women’s team manager, Venezuelan player Deyna Castellanos, who plays for Manchester City, and referee Lucila Venegas. Reporting from Australia also includes presenters Ana Jurka from Honduras and Carlota Vizmanos from Spain. Verónica Rodríguez also hosts the late-night highlight show Zona Mixta.
“We would like to thank Telemundo for giving 10 women the opportunity to be the focus of this coverage and to all the women who viewers don’t see and who take care of day-to-day operations: there are many women here.”, said Lopez Guajardo.