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Mixed football tournaments gain popularity

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(20 May 2017) LEADIN:Mixed-sex amateur football teams are becoming more common in Argentina.It's a move that's combating prejudices in the homeland of legends such as Messi and Maradona.STORYLINE:Whether they're male or female, all the players on this pitch are here for one reason - to make sure their team team wins.In the homeland of legends such as Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona, boys have been encouraged to play football for decades.But now women who love to play are being introduced into mixed amateur teams too.The "Buenos Aires Football Amigos" (BAFA) has been organising mixed-sex football matches in the Argentine capital for the last five years.Anne Van Beusekom is its founder. Originally from Guatemala, but having lived in Buenos Aires for nine years, she says mixed teams are a relatively new concept. "Five years ago men did not even consider playing with women." "They said like: 'Well, but football is a sport with a lot of contact, we would have to play very hard'. Until, little by little, men started adapting and they realised that mixed football is a different sport than male or female football."Football is a major part of Argentinian culture, but traditionally the sport has been geared towards boys. Most are introduced to the game by the age of two and football is officially proposed for boys on the school curriculum.But now more boys are choosing to play with girls in mixed teams, such as "The Chorizo Defenders" and "Mostri FC".Florencia Rincon created "The Chorizo Defenders", and even met her boyfriend through the team:"With my workmates, for example, we always wanted to do a girls' game after work but there were never ten of us. So, we asked a couple of guys and they came to help us complete (the team)," she says.Like Florencia, around one million women play football in Messi's country, according to the Female Argentine Football Association.But according to amateur player Guido Siciliani, some men still have prejudices about mixed-gender teams."I play with other boys also and sometimes when someone is missing we call my sister-in-law and she comes to play. There is always one of the guys that says: 'Oh, I cannot mark her'. That is all stupid stuff, just old, ancient prejudices because here we are all playing," he says.Daniel Reyes is the coach of the women's football professional team at River Plate Club, one of the biggest in Argentina.Although many mixed gender amateur teams dream of playing professionally, he believes strength differences between men and women must still be taken into account."The truth is that there is a physical issue that happens after the hormonal change which is when the men gain a great force. That makes it more complicated for women to play, for example at seventeen, in the same team as boys. But from the properly technical aspect, a drill, technical, tactical work, women are at the same level as men. I have no doubt about it."According to FIFA - the international governing body of football - its last 'Big Count' showed that more than 265 million people in the world play amateur or professional football regularly and nine out of ten of them are men. However, women's football is currently the fastest growing sport worldwide, according to the International Football Congress.You can license this story through AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/metadata/you... Find out more about AP Archive: http://www.aparchive.com/HowWeWork

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AP Archive apus077353 964ce64138ec95dc0b9ad1b6abaae3f5 HZ Argentina Mixed Football Diego Maradona Buenos Aires Argentina Latin America and Caribbean Sports
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