And yet, it was a proud moment for Albacete’s 21-year-old Alejandra Martínez. She wasn’t on the pitch but for the first time she was on the bench of the first team.
A breakthrough into top-flight women’s football was near. And she would do it with the club which represented her city.
Behind the excitement, though, was the thought that no one would recognize that achievement. Women’s football still remains underdeveloped, under-recognized and under-appreciated.
Even in Albacete.
As the men’s football team of Albacete struggle in the second division in a 17,300-seater stadium, the women’s football team are in the first division yet play in a tiny stadium with a capacity of just 3,000. A stadium which also houses the reserve team of the men’s football division, who are fighting relegation to the fifth tier this season.
In fact, if you click on the official website of Fundación Albacete here, you see the words "Página en construcción" (page under construction). It’s the most apt description of women’s football at present.
So, in an exclusive interview, I talked to Alejandra Martínez about the neglected state of women’s football.
Just to get to know you better - which university are you studying at and which course are you doing?
I'm studying at UNED (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia). The degree is called English Studies and I'm in the third year; moreover, I'm studying a superior degree of physical education called TAFAD.
Do many women footballers pursue university in Spain?
I think all women in Spain have university studies because here women cannot live just with a football salary. It is very frustrating, because women work as hard as men, and our effort is not rewarded.
How are you able to split your time between university, training and matches?
My daily schedule is hectic, to say the least. In the morning, I go to TAFAD, which is very hard because we have subjects like lifesaving, in which we swim 2 kilometers every day. In the afternoon, I study English Studies until 8. After that I train with my team. I'm always tired but I'm very happy with my life.
Which position do you play?
I play as right back, or as offensive midfield, it depends on the match and the coach.
What motivated you to pursue football as a career?
My motivation is Vero Boquete; she plays for the Spanish national team and just joined Bayern Munich. She is an inspiration to me because she has always fought against discrimination and she has studied what I’m studying at present. If I could, I would be just like her, but it's too difficult. (Laughs)
How did it feel to be called up to the first team of Fundación Albacete against Barcelona?
The call-up against Barcelona was awesome; most of the women I admire play in that club and it was incredible!
What do you think needs to be done to make women’s football more popular?
It would be very hard; it is a men's world, and we don't have enough money. In fact, only two teams in Spain get paid a full-time salary - Barcelona and Atlético de Madrid. The other teams don't have that luck. However, there are women are challenging discrimination and lobbying for change, which is encouraging.
Fundación Albacete is going through a bad patch of form. Do you think the team will be able to turn the tables around?
The first team of Fundación Albacete has lost their last five games, but I think the team will finish comfortably in mid-table by the end of the season.
What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, I like to play sports: football, basketball, even skating! I always make sure to play with my friends and the people I love.
A huge thank you to Alejandra Martínez for taking time out to do this, and to Aida López Serna for arranging the correspondence.
A quick comment on the interview:
I think what I found disturbing was the fact that she said "it is a men's world".
It's disturbing because in this day and age it shouldn't be.
But it's also disturbing because it's true.