The new steps of CP Football (Female) - Mariana’s storyNews
Written by Paula Veiga - IFCPF Communications Officer (South America)
In 2021 women will take a big step on international level competitions, with the first-ever IFCPF World Cup (Female). Whilst in Brazil, women currently compete in mixed teams, we hope more players will be inspired to join the sport.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, sports competitions around the globe have been cancelled or postponed. The International Federation of CP Football (IFCPF) announced that in 2020 there would be the first Women's CP Football World Cup in Barcelona, Spain, together with the Nations Championships. But, for safety reasons, the games will now take place in 2021 from 6th to 13th August. The event aims to take the development of the sport to the next level. Australia, Argentina, Denmark, Japan, The Netherlands, Spain and USA have confirmed their participation in the World Cup.
As in many countries, Brazil currently only has male and mixed CP Football teams, and is not yet ready to participate in the competition. However, it doesn't mean that there are no high-performance players in the country. Women can train and compete in Brazil in mixed teams.
Mariana Damasio, 23, is the first woman in a Brazilian competition in the sport. The athlete started training in March 2017, after an internet search showed her a team near where she lived in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. In September of the same year, she went to the Brazilian CP Football Championships, in the second division of the Associação Nacional de Desporto para Deficientes (Ande), in São Paulo.
Mariana believes that female participation in international level competitions is important and, for her, the Women's World Cup is just a first step. It is necessary, in Mariana's opinion, for the conditions of the sport to change for the feminine space to become real. Unfortunately, her dream cut short after an injury. Mariana's injury was muscular due to knee overload. After the diagnosis made by a sports orthopedist, the athlete received the recommendation to interrupt the practice. But she didn’t give up on sports. After suffering the injury, she started to train in table tennis, a new beginning. Mariana, now a player of the Associação Mineira do Paradesporto, aims to become a professional in the Paralympic sport.
“I try to stay calm to continue this process, taking one step at a time, not creating too much expectation. The road to recovery was difficult. At one point, I didn't believe I could go back to sport. Discovering table tennis is a gift, the resumption of a dream. I dare to say that I have never felt so comfortable and happy in playing a sport as I do now.” - Mariana Damasio, athlete.
In the Brazilian CP Football Championships, Mariana was initially a member of the coaching staff. The rules were for male teams, therefore she would not have the opportunity to play. However, when her team got there, Ande's technicians and directors voted for her to make the functional classification and compete in the championship. She accepted the challenge, despite the discomfort of playing in a mixed team.
“The disadvantage is undeniable, there are physiological differences and I felt them a lot. It was hard to get into a tackle - when two players fight for the ball -, several times I was afraid of getting hurt and we know that at the time of the competition no one relieves anyone. I realized that I couldn't do my best on the field for all these issues of muscular strength and endurance, which ended up being advantages for men.” - Mariana reports.
The classifier Agnaldo Bertucci, and former doctor of the Brazilian CP Football Team, comments that the disadvantages of women in the male category are due to their own body structure, but does not mean impossibility to compete.
According to Paulo Cruz, IFCPF's Brazilian representative, Mariana's participation in the National Championships influenced the formation of women's teams, still in an embryonic stage in most countries. He also states that the process is slow and needs to be publicized to attract women with cerebral palsy to participate in activities that are organized in some countries.
“Having Mariana Damasio playing in the second division of the Brazilian Championships was a milestone for future initiatives by Ande, which governs the sport in Brazil. I understand that it is a long journey, but that, fortunately, has already started and, depending on the IFCPF, it will soon be a reality in the world of sport for people with disabilities.” - says Paulo Cruz.
Paulo Cruz declares that, after the rules allow men and women to play on the same teams in official competitions, the idea is to provide events around the world in order to develop women's CP football. The representative says that a development group was created for this purpose at IFCPF, with participants from several continents.
On the federation's official website, the gender mixing rule is referred to as a provisional measure until there are enough athletes to have women's teams and competitions.
Coach Paulo Cabral, from the Brazilian national team of CP Football, adds that after Mariana's presence in the fields, other women had the chance to compete in national competitions within mixed teams. In the men's category, the team has won medals such as bronze at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Brazil, and in the 2019 World Cup in Spain, and gold in the latest edition of the Parapan-Americano in Peru.
In a decision of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), CP Football was not included in the Paralympic program, which results in the absence of the sport in the Paralympic Games of 2020 and 2024. One of the reasons for the exclusion, according to Paulo Cruz, was the lack of female presence. Since the formation of IFCPF as a federation, new measures are being taken to develop the female category worldwide.
“After the sport was not included in the Tokyo Paralympic Games program, IFCPF focused all its attention on the aspects that were decisive for this decision. There was significant reformulation in the functional classification process, documented evidence and an increase in the number of countries that develop CP Football. Courses on all continents aimed at implementing the sport, updating the rules and introducing the possibility of having teams in the rules mixed in relation to gender.” - Paulo Cruz completes.
IFCPF carried out other initiatives in 2019, such as the regional CP Football (female) development camps. In the European edition in The Netherlands, 22 female athletes from Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, The Netherlands and Japan participated. From October 8th to 12th, Australia produced the version destined for Asia and Oceania.
Also, on July 17th 2020, it was transmitted on Facebook an online webinar, Transfer Window, about Female Players’ Perspective.