- Soccer without Borders
If She Can See It, She Can Be It: A Spotlight on Granada FC
While the growth of the women’s game in Europe and the United States may receive the majority of media’s attention, there is also a powerful movement building in Latin America, an area of the globe where women and girls have historically lacked opportunities to play and where Soccer Without Borders (SWB) has been working for over a decade to break down the barriers of access to the world’s game.
Fútbol Sin Fronteras Nicaragua (FSF), a hub of SWB, has been serving girls in the city of Granada for over 14 years, providing leagues, clinics, community events, and academic support. And now, the impact of these programs can not only be felt at the grassroots and community levels, but has become an inspiration on the national stage as well. This accomplishment is due to the resurgence of Granada FC, a women's club team competing in La Nicaragua Liga Segunda División Femenina (the Nicaragua Second Division Women’s League).
The roots of the team are closely intertwined with SWB and extend back to 2008, when we sponsored a team of passionate local footballers from the Granada community to compete in the Nicaragua’s Women's First Division. Although this barrier-breaking team – and the league as a whole – was short lived, some very important seeds were planted at that time.
Thirteen years later, as opportunities for women and girls to play soccer in Latin America have continued to make significant progress, the community felt the time was right to bring women’s club soccer back to Granada. In 2021, the team was reborn. And this time, as a tribute to the ongoing support from the community, the club was officially named Granada Fútbol Club Femenino, or Granada FC Women.
While Granada FC Women are their own independent club, its creation was driven by a group of Soccer Without Borders staff and program alumnae. In fact, nearly all of the team’s players are either active SWB participants or program alumnae. One of those players is Coach Francisca Alvarez, who sees her role as a coach, athlete, and role model as a platform to support girls in her hometown who could most benefit: "Girls who do not have opportunities such as education and recreation through sports, my goal is to bring them joy and fun, give them tools to empower themselves as women, rid them of the machismo with which I have struggled for many years, [and to show them] that they are capable of everything."
While not playing, these semi-professionals excel as students and small business owners; they truly exemplify how soccer has the ability to equip participants for life, both on and off the field. Behind the scenes, FSF staff have made significant efforts to ensure that the team does not only have the funding it needs, but that they continue to be an integral part of the local community.
“What I find most special,” says SWB Managing Director of Programs Lindsey Whitford, “is how the FSF staff formed a local supporters club for the team. Through this, the Granada community were invited to make small donations. Contributions poured in from all over the area, across genders, neighborhoods, and social classes.” Whitford continues, “The enthusiasm with which community members have embraced and shown up for the team is a clear demonstration of community change over the last 15 years.”
The connection to SWB doesn’t end there, though. It can also be found in the way that the values of equity and inclusion have been ingrained in the culture of Granada FC. “In our first year of opening it was an incredible experience,” recalls FSF Co-Director César Morales. “We all know the importance of what the players mean to new generations of girls. The players often have opportunities to share about the importance of inclusion and stand as examples of how these values can make an impact on the growth of women's sport in Latin America.”
This past summer, the inspiring story of Granada FC continued onward through a remarkable achievement on the soccer pitch as well. In August 2022, the team reached their very first league semifinal. “The semifinals run was a time when all the odds were broken and all the expectations from the community were exceeded,” Morales exclaimed. “It was an achievement of a team, an achievement of SWB, and an achievement of the women's sports community. It showed how, by believing and trusting in themselves, all girls are capable.”
Granada FC has, without a doubt, made an enduring impact in the hearts and minds of the local community. To local girls at SWB Nicaragua they stand as shining examples of how if she can see it, she can be it. Vamos Granada FC!
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