An unprecedented match took place on Saturday in the Spanish city of Albacete. The reason? In it he participated Mireia Rodríguez, the first woman to join a men’s handball team, a first in Spain.
The protagonist of this situation is a 31-year-old woman, who wanted to continue practicing her sport when her soccer husband was recruited by the Albacete club. However, in the locality there was no women’s handball group, so Mireia asked to train with the men’s team, regional second division.
The club opened its arms to her and from the first training sessions, the energetic athlete of 1.64 meters and 51 kilos dazzled her teammates. Then, Coach José María Valerio suggested that he also play the games. “I said yes, of course, but that it was very difficult for a woman to compete in the men’s league,” Mireia Rodríguez recalled to AFP.
In order to do so, he needed to receive a green light from the sports authorities and meet all the requirements. “At the beginning the federation had doubts because it was the first case that was presented to them, because in lower teams, in little ones, it can be done,” explains the coach, a former La Liga referee who consulted many official regulations.
«At the territorial level, there was no rule that said no, and then it was approved», Says María López, president of the Castilla-La Mancha handball federation, who states that the rest of the clubs were consulted without any objection.
López does not hide his admiration: «What the hell he has! He is 1.60 meters tall and faces 2 meter men ».
As the team plays regionally, it was not necessary to seek authorization at the national level, as explained by the national federation. So Mireia Rodríguez had a free way to compete. All she had to do was get a uniform that was her size and get used to ordering two costumes, one for the men and one for her.
“We have had to adapt just as she has had to adapt to us. She plays much faster, “said Luis Cuerda, captain of Albacete. “We are combining the ability of a girl with the strength of boys,” added his coach.
Last Saturday, in the match between Albacete and Cabanillas that opened the season, the number of journalists exceeded that of spectators, the commentator joked before introducing the teams through the microphone.
With her long hair tied in a ponytail with several colored bands and sports shoes with fluorescent orange braids, Mireia Rodríguez showed an overflowing game of energy. When he scored his only goal of the game at number 11, which the rest of the time is devoted to designing baby clothes, the applause was deafening.
The players of the Cabanillas team, defeated 31-26, played with total normality, going the same “in contact”. “They have told us, in addition, that we were normal, that if not, it would be a handicap,” said Javier Parera, their captain.
For Mireia Rodríguez, there is no difference on the court: “In the end we have the same ball and the same rules of the game.” But for his coach, “Is going to set a precedent” that it may serve as an incentive for “a lot of girls” who may feel “a little self-conscious” about playing with men.
The president of the club, José Roldán, sees “a historic milestone in handball in Spain.” “There may be women in exceptional situations playing with men in all categories, and we must start legislating, it is a message for our legislators,” he adds.