I’m with Shirley: soccer is for all of us, and language matters

Today’s post is brought to you by Costa Rican soccer superstar Shirley Cruz. After Channel 7 sportscaster Ramón Luis Méndez informed the world on Sunday that “fútbol es de hombres” (“soccer is for men”) –  he was arguing that it’s a contact sport, not for the faint of heart – Shirley posted this simple message over three posts:

Soccer isn’t “for men.” Soccer is a universal sport, for all genders. These types of phrases sully the work that many women have done for years to break down stereotypes…

For the people who say that a phrase like “Soccer is for men” isn’t machista: you never suffered when they yelled at us from the buses that passed by the back field at Sabana Park, telling us to stop wasting time and go home to wash dishes. We ask that parents support their soccer-playing daughters because even today there are girls who play soccer at school and the boys drive them away with these kinds of comments.

And no, we’re not being over sensitive, as this man says. Let’s not forget that television broadcasts reach the whole country. There are synonyms that could be used so as not to interfere with the progress of women’s soccer. We live in a machista country where many women are murdered each year.

This is my struggle and that of many women. We are not a hypersensitive generation. We are a generation that wants a change in the world.

Pretty awesome, and pretty darn straightforward, right?

Apparently, many found it quite shocking. I probably learned more about sexism in Costa Rica by reading the comments on Shirley’s posts than I have in the previous decade, and that’s saying a lot. Women and men alike had plenty to say: she’s oversensitive. She’s overdramatic. She’s being ridiculous because he wasn’t commenting on a women’s game – he was just saying soccer isn’t for wusses. She’s too impatient; it’s unrealistic to expect people to change so quickly. She should suck it up because you don’t see men getting upset when people say, “You’re playing like a girl in high heels” or “You’re a little princess.” (Umm, world: that’s also an insult against women. Not men.) The sportscaster himself, in filming a brief “apology,” remarked that some people are “a little too sensitive,” and it seems that many of his viewers agreed.

We have a long match still to play, and I’m so grateful to have a captain like this one. Thank you, Shirley, for sticking your neck out. While I might have been surprised by the vitriol you faced, I know who wasn’t surprised in the least: you. You’ve been facing this nonsense since you were playing pickup games on the back field at La Sabana. You knew exactly who was coming for you when you decided to speak out. You laced up your cleats anyway, knowing that in the end, you’ll outrun them all.

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter). 


6 thoughts on “I’m with Shirley: soccer is for all of us, and language matters

  1. Hi, I have a slightly different take in this fracas, I stand with Shirley in the substance, but people forget that Ramón Luis is what gringos would call the quintessential shock jock. As a referee he was really poor and always wanted to be the center of attention, (a no no for a ref), and as you know having that kind of characters on TV is a profitable (sadly) business decision.
    I do not agree with the ranters for a very simple reason: survey them and see how many of them have ever attended a game or how many games a season they have gone to. Also they should direct that energy towards the teams that still don’t pay them decent salaries, that don’t give them decent training grounds, heck they do not even pay their ‘cuotas patronales’ to the Caja or report very little salary, what kind of pension these girls are going to have? Not even mentioning career ending injuries. The best way to support your heroes and trailblazers is to put your wallet where your mouth claims to be.
    And last the name of the sport is: Football! There is a reason why there is no ‘S’ in FIFA, why the oldest federation in the world, (England 1863) is called the FA I know the US has had its disagreements and clashes with the Brits through history but is amusing to me that the US is the only major former colony that does not play any of the sports Britain spread around the world, cricket, rugby or football, they invented versions based in the first two and changed the name of the latter.
    Saludos from Amherst VA.


  2. Hi Guillermo! The thing is, the only “ranting” I saw was from the people writing tirades against Shirley. Shirley herself wasn’t ranting at all – she just said, “Hey, let’s not say this is a man’s sport. Language matters and this sport is for everyone.” It was a small comment in the context of her much bigger overall efforts to address the structural problems you mention. The backlash she was hit with truly shocked me, so I wanted to do whatever I could to show support. As for soccer – I’m with you, but diay, for consistency I use U.S. spelling and terminology in my writing. All the best!


    1. When I used ranting was in reference to the comments section in LN’s article where both sides were throwing stones (more than arguments) at each other, not about what she wrote.
      I’ve been following you since you started writing at the TT. It was obvious you had much better writing skills than those there at the time, i have followed you since.


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