They are few, but more and more. And they are tearing down another barrier. The soccer and basketball referees are another symbol of the unstoppable growth of Spanish women's sport. Today they are little more than an exception in a world of men in which their presence blows up some cave behavior, but those male chanting vanishes in the face of the recognition of a double merit: the difficulty of arbitration joins the way in a male universe.
No referee or assistant in the First Division of football. Only two assistants in Second. Six in Second B. And eight main referees and 20 line judges in Third. In total, among 1,317 members there are only 36 women, a minimum percentage of 2.7%. Even lower if only professional football (First and Second) is counted: 2 of 126, 1.6%. Of the global number of some 14,000 members in Spain who manage matches of all ages, 700 are women (5%), a figure that, although still scarce, has doubled in the last five years.
Pilar Landeira was the pioneer in the ACB between 1992 and 2004. Anna Cardús took over from 2002 to 2017. And today Esperanza Mendoza, 34, is the only referee in the elite of men's basketball. "It's part of a process," says Mendoza; "It was unthinkable before. Now there are more girls in lower categories and they will reach higher. But you do not have to force it or upgrade if they're not ready, just to cover a little. "
Mendoza claims to have felt "more observed" because she is a woman: "It seems that mistakes are more highlighted". She goes through a path that began Landeira, who recalls: "I opened a door for women to perform a function that was exclusive of men. The social moment was very different. Today society does not see a woman as a referee a rarity. It is accepted as normal. " But it's not always like this. In November, Guillem Boscana, president of Iberojet Palma, said: "It had never happened to me to have two women from three arbitrators. I think with a bit. They lost the papers a little. " This December, three women have called together for the first time in Liga Dia and Leb Oro. Another step in a daily struggle.
The case of basketball is similar. In ACB, there is only one woman with 32 judges (3.1%), Esperanza Mendoza. Among the referees of Group I, which can be designated for the Liga Dia, Leb Oro and Leb Plata (first female category and second and third male), 8 of 76 (10.5%).
"It is clear that we want more," says Marisa Villa, female referee responsible for the Technical Committee of Referees (CTA), which belongs to the Spanish Football Federation. "The number of referees is also proportional to the men and women who practice sports. We are satisfied, but it can be better, "he says. Villa knows very well what he is talking about. In 1995 he began a career as an arbitrator that in 2007 led him to achieve promotion to First as an assistant. An unprecedented achievement before and until now that however could not culminate: it did not pass the physical tests. "Women have a harder time reaching men's soccer, the effort must be greater", says Villa. FIFA sets a physical standard for all countries, but Spain raised it to this year with a few more screens, such as the field test: races in various directions, sprints and exercises with cones in a 50-meter square. "This is very difficult for a woman to climb more than Second B. Now is the challenge that we propose, to reach that category [Carolina Doménech la alcanzó en 2001]. Today we can not talk about reaching First. It's still a little utopia. "
The eight referees of Tercera also direct in Liga Iberdrola. In the women's competition they charge more per game, but accommodation and meals must be paid with the allowances. The difference with men's football is here an abyss, which separates the two tournaments in terms of impact and production of income, and that is also reflected in the footnotes of the players. An arbitrator in the first female category wins the same by meeting as a referee in Second B, 167 euros per appointment plus diets. A referee in the First Men bag 3,700 euros, 1,620 in Second. They hover in the elite 300,000 euros per year between fixed and parties; them, the 3,000. It is 100 times less.
On the grass, the referees agree in highlighting the respect of players and fans in most cases. "Total normality," says Ainara Acevedo, 27, who debuted in Tercera. The other side he lived in November in a match in Terrassa between San Cristobal and Llagostera. It was the first time in Catalonia that a male party of that category was run by three women. And … "Who brushes them from the team? Do you all do? ", They rebuked them from the stands, although Ainara did not hear anything:" It was a normal game. Compared with others, there was nothing. A lot of alarmism was created, the reality was not that. There were the typical protests and that's it. I'm sorry the minority stands out. In my career I have always received respect. People already internalize the normality of a woman being an arbitrator. Also, as the children see it at the base, they are already used to seeing a woman shouting. "
Being a referee means having hard skin. Also knows it Marta Huerta, of 28 years, international, six seasons in Third and professor. "In my beginnings, it was stranger to be a woman and to whistle. The delegates spoke with the small assistants as if they were the referees and it could not be me. The change has been brutal. In fact I think that being a woman has benefited me, because when you get to the First Women you can be international, and that a guy can not do it. "
The case of Bibiana Steinhaus, in the second German and fourth referee in Bundesliga, is far. "I find it hard to think that in 10 years there will be an arbitrator in First", says Antonio Gea, president of the Spanish Association of Arbitrators. But the progression is unstoppable. The old insult of 'Go scrubbing!' Every time it sounds less.