For eight-year-old Candelaria Cabrera (Cande), nothing beats dribbling a soccer ball downfield and taking a shot on goal. (Aside from making that goal, of course.) But an outdated rule in Argentina, where she lives, stating that girls couldn’t play football on the same team as boys once they turned eight, threatened to kick her off the field—and out of the sport she loves—for good. Thankfully, her mom reached out far and wide for help, and Nike responded. Big time. Now, not only is Cande, as she’s known by friends and family, back in the game, but she’s also opened the door for so many other young girls just like her in Latin America and all over the world.
Cande’s parents remember first seeing their daughter happily kicking a ball around when she was about three years old. They tried to encourage her to play sports, like hockey, that were more common for girls in their area, but Cande was drawn to football like nothing else. There were no girls’ teams in her town of Chabas, in the Santa Fe province (which also happens to be the birthplace of stars like Lionel Messi and Jorge Valdano), so eventually they signed her up to play in the local boys’ league, Club Huracan. She fit right in with her teammates and thrived in the left wing position.
Last summer, just months before turning eight, Cande was notified that, due to her league’s rule against mixed-gender teams, she wouldn’t be able to continue playing with her team after her birthday. Her mom, Rosana Noriega, shared her daughter’s sad story on social media. The Nike team in Buenos Aires spotted it, and then reached out to see how they could help. With assistance from some players on the Argentina Women’s National Football Team, they launched a campaign called “Nosotras Con Cande” (“We’re with Cande”) to try and convince the league to change their rules and give girls the right to play. In December, Club Huracan voted unanimously to do just that. With the new ruling, Cande will be able to play with the boys until she’s 10, and the league promised to create a girls’ league within two years so she’ll still be able to compete at a competitive level after that.
To celebrate this historic win in the fight for gender equity in sport, the Nike SOCO Football team travelled to Chabás in December and held a clinic for Cande and about 70 other young female footballers, led by Evelina Cabrera, President of the Argentina Women’s National Football Association, and six of the professional players who took part in the “Nosotras Con Cande” campaign.
We know that sport has the power to move the world forward. And stories like Cande’s are unfortunately all too common. In Argentina, for example, only 68 of the 230 regional leagues recognized by the Argentine Football Association have women’s teams. But Nike is working tirelessly with its partners across the globe to try and help bridge these culturally driven gender gaps in sport and play. Just last year, we teamed up with La Nuestra, the first all-girls football program in Buenos Aires, to provide coaching and equipment support. And earlier this year, there was yet another victory: Argentina’s Boca Juniors women’s soccer team played a match in the legendary La Bombonera stadium—a first for any women’s team. The moment was captured on Instagram, and it quickly became Nike Argentina’s most-liked post ever: