Villa San Carlos striker Mara Gomez became the first transgender woman to play football in Argentina on Monday.
Gomez, 23, got the approval to play from the Argentina Football Association (AFA) and started in Villa San Carlos’ 7-1 win over Lanus in the Primera A.
“When I started out, football was a therapy for me and I couldn’t think it was possible to dream or consider playing in the top division,” Gomez told ESPN.
“A few years back this was unthinkable to talk about or debate but now we are opening new roads. This is a huge achievement. I’m totally grateful to my club, to my teammates and coaching staff for opening the doors for me and for showing me respect from the beginning. I’m proud to represent a community but also a part of society and to know that I have become a reference for a lot of people.”
Gomez thanked the AFA which took the recommendations of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on inclusion to allow her to play professionally.
Lanus also paid tribute to Gomez after the game by presenting her with a club jersey to commemorate the occasion and wrote: “We celebrate and accompany this enormous step on the road to expanding rights. Congratulations Mara Gomez.”
Gomez has received numerous congratulatory messages and posted on social media after the game: “It wasn’t magic, it wasn’t a gift, it wasn’t easy. There was a life of fighting, suffering and sadness. There was a life on the edge of death and a broken heart. Many obstacles had to be overcome to revert the past….This has only just begun. Today I breathe, today my soul returns to my body.”
Gomez added that football came to her rescue.
“Football came to my life at a time when I needed it,” she said. “It came at a time when I was struggling psychologically because of discrimination, exclusion, and I saw it as a therapy. I realised that football could be a style of life for me.”