When Balbina Treviño was 36 years old, she had a decision to make. She had been out of soccer for seven years, but had an offer to play professionally. “I worked in government, so I was scared of coming back to play, (of) getting in shape again,” she told SB Nation in an interview last week. “I love soccer, but the other half of my decision, or the other 40%, is that I consciously said that I wanted to play because I was very mad about the conditions.”
She was worried that despite the points she could raise about the working conditions of the women in Liga MX Femenil, she’d get brushed aside because she hadn’t actually played in the league. So she decided she’d play. Her time in Liga MX Femenil was brief, playing a season with Necaxa before moving to Rayadas in Monterrey where she currently resides.
“Now I have a voice. I was on the worst team. I was on the best team. Now people listen to me.”
Treviño has a lot to say, but she’s quick to point out “it’s not even about me. It’s about social pressure to to force things to go faster. It’s not to make a change. Changes are happening. But faster changes, so we can have a better league. so the girls can be safe. So the girls can just focus on playing, and not focus on what are we going to eat.”
It’s unconscionable that professional athletes make so little that they can’t afford to eat, or keep their lights on. Treviño posted a WhatsApp message she had received from a Liga MX Femenil player who was asking for money that got a lot of attention to the conditions facing players in the league.
Otro ejemplo de la gravedad de no tener #SalarioDigno en @LigaBBVAFemenil.— Balbina Treviño (@balbinama7) March 22, 2021
Es INCREÍBLE que una jugadora de primera división no pueda cumplir con los gastos básicos para poder jugar fútbol.
¡URGE BASE SALARIAL QUE DIGNIFIQUE LA PROFESIÓN! pic.twitter.com/xoBGtVzBYm
Treviño confirms she sent the player money, but recognizes that it’s a double-edged sword “I’ve had girls come up to me and tell me to help them out, and I will. And I will keep doing that, but not so much that the teams will be like ‘oh, well somebody else is resolving this for us.’ So I stopped that, and I said I’m gonna do something else. I’m gonna do what I’m doing right now, speak(ing) up” about these issues.
Treviño played the 2019 Apertura with Necaxa and the 2020 Clausura with Monterrey, and while there were challenges at both, Necaxa was by far the more difficult situation not only for her but for everyone involved.
“When I was (at) Necaxa,” Treviño continutes, “I got together a couple of my friends, and we got money together. We selected, with the coach, we chose or she helped us choose three other girls that had the least, and the worst economic situation of their parents and themselves. We gave them money every month for a year so they can take care of their expenses. They paid us 3,300 pesos (approximately USD $164 / €132). It’s ridiculous, so and I wanted to get together with a friend and do an association that helped women soccer players, but it’s something it’s a struggle because then we’ll be taking care of what the federation and the teams are supposed to do, and we don’t want to take the pressure off of them.”
It wasn’t just the pay inequities. Everything was different from what her male counterparts experienced. “The men’s team flies everywhere,” she said. “The women’s team, we traveled on bus. Not (to) all of the games, but like from Monterrey to Querétaro, it’s an eight hour bus ride. Monterrey to Aguascalientes, it’s like a six hour bus ride.”
“When I played, Necaxa traveled the same day we played. So we we left Aguascalientes at eight in the morning, arrived in Monterrey (between two and four in the afternoon). We ate, they rented they allowed us to be in like a party room. But with no tables and we were on the on the carpet resting, and then we would move to the stadium. We would play at nine o’clock at night. We take a shower, go back to the hotel, eat, and then get on the bus and come home. In 24 hours, we would travel six or seven hours, eat, play, and travel six to seven hours.”
Her time in Monterrey was different. Monterrey provided more things for the players, but there were still deep inequities between Rayadas and Rayados.
Rayadas on the other hand, they arrived a day early. They slept in this in the city where they played and they traveled. I mean it’s much better conditions, but it’s the same. The men’s team don’t travel (outside of the city by bus), not even to Torreón, and that’s (only a) three hour bus ride. They travel on plane. And Necaxa changed that, because once we went to to Mexico City to play with America. We arrived barely like an hour and a half before the game because our there was a (traffic jam) on one of the of the highways. And we tweeted and we called the news outlet, FOX Sports, and other news channels so they can know like ‘we may not make it, and we may not make it because we left at eight in the morning to play a five o’clock game.’ They almost don’t do that anymore in Necaxa, they mostly travel one day before, but I mean it’s the same thing they they don’t put the guys team through that.”
“We don’t have a clubhouse. We don’t ever sleep (at the club). The men’s side in Necaxa and Rayados have a clubhouse where they have bedrooms, they sleep there when they have a home game or when they’re in playoffs. We barely (got) a hotel and when we go play in another city.”
When Treviño left Necaxa, she was under no illusions. She knew she was “going to be seeing the same differences, the same fights, the same struggle for equality (even) on the best, or one of the two best paid teams. And it was the same thing.”
“Everyone (was) fighting the same fight. Rayadas has their own (issues).” While Monterrey had some facilities for the women, “it’s not even a casa club (clubhouse). It’s a square room that they put five showers, three toilets, three sinks, and benches, three girls per bench. That was it. Necaxa didn’t even have that. We changed on the turf (at Necaxa). And we trained on artificial turf. I think the fight is the same. The conditions are different Rayadas has much, much better conditions. But it’s still the same fight.”
While things were tough, Treviño recognizes how far the league has come in the short time it’s been in existence. “Things are always getting better. The payrolls, the amount they’re paid, the conditions, the uniforms.”
“When the league started they used the men’s uniforms, and in small sizes. They used to cut their uniforms so they could be like a women’s fit, and now they have women’s sizes. I mean things are always getting better, but they’re their little drops of water coming in. They’re they’re always advancing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a setback like a big setback. I’ve always recognized that the Federación Mexicana has done great things with the women’s team, the women’s league, but it’s still not dignified conditions”
“They’re not calling it like recreational leagues, they call it first division.”
“I just talked to one of the best paid girls in the league in the league,” Treviño says “and she said she’s going through a personal struggle, because she wants to complain. But she cannot save money. She lives well, because she makes good money compared to other girls, other players, but she wants to save. She wants to have a family. If she wants to have children, what would the team do with her contract? We don’t have guarantees about motherhood about pregnancy.”
“It’s not even a work contract. It’s a it’s called Prestación de Servicios (Provisional Services). And not even professional. I don’t know what type of contract is that? But it’s not a work contract.” She explains that there are “several types of contracts between employee and employer. And what we have is not a contract per se, it doesn’t say ‘es un contrato’. It says it’s, ‘estas prestación de servicios’, and I worked in government, there’s contracts like that say prestación de servicios profesionales. This doesn’t even say professional.”
Obviously loaning a player money isn’t a long term solution to remedy the pay inequities that exist, and sea-change in how contracts are structured will take time and is largely outside of what fans of the league can do. So what can be done?
“Consume the game,” Treviño says. “Consume tv. When they’re they are on tv, watch that. Watch the games. When stadiums open up, go to stadiums. Buy the shirts.”
“And I have something else about what to do. It’s not about what to do. It’s what not to do. Many of the comments, of the hate comments aimed against our fight for equal opportunities and stuff, it’s women themselves. So let’s not do that. If you don’t agree, just keep to yourself. I don’t, it doesn’t help. We’re trying to evolve. And if you don’t want to, okay, but don’t try to stop us.”