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Macarena Sanchez is taking legal action against her club and the Argentine football federation (A.F.A.) for not recognizing her as a professional player. It is an unprecedented case in women’s football in Argentina.

The 27-year-old has played for Buenos Aires-based UAI Urquiza since moving from her hometown of Santa Fe in 2012.

One of the best women’s teams in South America, UAI beat teams including Boca Juniors and River Plate to win the Argentine women’s league last season and qualify for the Copa Libertadores.

Here FIFPro explains the background to the case.

Are women footballers all considered amateur in Argentina?

Yes. The players of all the teams in the Argentine women’s league are all regarded as amateur by clubs and the federation. Sanchez says that in reality many should be recognized as professionals. She says clubs disguise the professional status of women players from public authorities by paying them under the table or through jobs outside football.

Why would clubs do this?

Sanchez’s lawyers say clubs generate opaque constructs like these so that they and the federation, which are male dominated, can have control over the development of the women’s game. Clubs say that women’s football doesn’t generate enough money for them to be professional. Macarena Sanchez 1 300 360 002

How was Sanchez compensated by her club?

Since 2014 she received a monthly salary by working part-time in an administrative position at a company with links to the directors of UAI. From UAI she got the equivalent of US$10 a month in expenses. All the players on the club’s male team, which plays in the third-tier of the men’s league, have professional football contracts and salaries, she says.

What sparked Sanchez’s complaint?

Sanchez was told this month by team coach Germán Portanove that she was not required by the club any more for football reasons, leaving her unable to finish the season with the club or move to another for six months. She is now seeking compensation for her work as a footballer over the last seven years with the club. She says she would have filed the complaint before but did not want to jeopardize her football career.

How much money is at stake?

Not a large amount. Sanchez says she is not interested in the money, and will not pocket anything if she wins her case. Her legal battle, she says, is about principle and fighting for women’s rights in football. She has a tattoo of Mexican artist and women’s right icon Frida Kahlo on her arm. Sanchez hopes her case will open up women’s football in Argentina to professionalism.

What is the legal procedure?

The Employment Ministry will invite the club and federation to a meeting with Sanchez to try and reach an out-of-court settlement. If that is unsuccessful, the case will go to either a football tribunal or employment court. Sanchez’s lawyers say if her claim is rejected in Argentina they will take the case to an international human rights court.

Is there any legal precedent?

Not in women’s football in Argentina. In men’s football, players in Argentina protested in the 1930s for not being recognized as professional.

What has been the reaction to Sanchez’s legal action in Argentina?

She has received support from both female and male players. Juan Pablo Sorin, who played 74 times for Argentina from 1995 to 2006, is among those who has contacted her to show his support. Neither Sanchez’s former club nor the federation have commented yet.

Could the case have a knock-on effect in other countries?

Perhaps not a tangible effect but there is growing momentum among women’s footballers to seek better conditions and the case is likely to increase this impetus. In November, FIFPro helped organize a seminar in Santiago, Chile for women players from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and Venezuela who are pushing for improved conditions in their respective countries.