Mahia Macías wants to be a professional footballer. She is so sure of it that, at just seven years of age, she plays for El Club Nacional de Football de Uruguay, a historic team in the country that allowed her to join its boys-only youth team in which she is not only a player but also the captain. Now, with Santander’s help, she has travelled to Spain with her family, carrying a pink suitcase, to fulfil her dream of meeting Yamila Badell, a professional female footballer who plays for the Madrid club, CD Tacón. A journey of almost 10,000 km towards her dreams.
The score flashing on the stadium scoreboard is a one-all draw between Club Nacional de Football de Montevideo and its eternal rival, Peñarol. Both belong to the boys’ category of Uruguayan football. And the captain of the former is a girl: Mahia Macías, aged seven. It’s coming to the end of the game. This is when Mahia manages to control the ball on her chest from a cross into the penalty area. A few seconds later, she chips the ball into the net and makes history: the first female player to score a goal in a Montevideo derby.
As the sponsor of the best football competitions in the world and, in this case, as part of our now traditional sponsorship of the Copa Conmebol Libertadores, we invited her to Spain, where she has always dreamt of playing and to meet her idol and fellow female footballer, Yamila Badell who plays for CD Tacón.
Banco Santander uses “Football Can” as a global strategy to apply its commitment to progress in the world of football, and to enhance football’s ability to impact and improve people’s lives.
We believe that these stories demonstrate football’s huge capacity as an agent for social change and that they reinforce our brand’s strategic values of gender equality, inclusion, support for talent and diversity.
When Mahia arrived in the Spanish capital on Friday 1 March, accompanied by her parents and her brother, she said, “coming to Madrid is something I never imagined doing. I’ll carry on training every day because one day I would like to be like Yamila and play here…” She is also a fan of Cristiano Ronaldo, although she wears Neymar’s boots when she plays. Cristiano’s are too big for her still.
The women’s team that Yamila Badell plays for, CD Tacón, trains at facilities in Ciudad Lineal, in north-east Madrid. So that is where Mahia and her family headed. Despite her nerves, Mahia managed to join in with the team and train just like any other player. And naturally, this was of secondary importance to Mahia, who wanted to meet the woman who inspired her to believe that it would be possible to get here one day.
Mahia in Spain
Yamila Badell is not exactly a veteran professional, at just 24 years old. She also left her country and things she loved to turn professional. But both Yamila and Mahia know that they are part of a transformation in football that will pave the way for other young women to come.
Their meeting, despite the age gap, was a testimony to this fact. They chatted, laughed and trained together. Then Yamila signed a football for Mahia and gave her some words of advice.
Mahia on the playing field
The day after the training session, Mahia and her family went to watch a match between CD Tacón and Atlético Féminas. She also played in a match with other girls from the local junior team and scored a superb goal. This was followed by a tour of the Santiago Bernabéu stadium and a few days of sightseeing in Madrid.
Mahia in Madrid
What Mahia has achieved is not just the vital goal she scored in a key match and getting everyone to hear about her story. She has managed to compete on an equal basis, better herself and knock down the barriers standing in the way of her dreams.
Whatever the barriers are, wherever in the world, Mahia, aged seven, already knows that football is a vehicle for fulfilling her dreams. Because football can do anything.