"The world is yours" reads the forearm of Evelina Cabrera, the multifaceted Argentine who does not stop breaking molds both in Mexico and locally. Despite the fact that her tattoo with the famous phrase of Al Pacino's character in Scarface was chosen for simple fanaticism, when looking at her resume it seems that it was a premonition of what was coming. With a strong and temperate leg, the soccer leader, coach and manager likes to be defined by her work, beyond her personal history marked by marginality in her beginnings and the fight for gender equality in the sport.
Name: Maria Evelina Cabrera. Position: Technical assistant. Argentina Nationality. The achievements of the only woman on the technical staff of the Mexican soccer club Pachuca, a pioneer at the regional level in this regard, include co-founding the Argentine Women's Soccer Association (AFFA), writing three books, speaking at the UN Assembly, having recently been appointed by Luis Almagro as ambassador to the OAS for gender equality in sports, and the list goes on.
"Being a woman and coming from where I come from, she always condemned me," says the 34-year-old coach whose standard is resilience, a quality that she learned the hard way and that she reinforced through coaching courses. In addition, he assures that part of this attitude was taken from the character Tony Montana, the charismatic protagonist of the movie Scarface animated by Al Pacino, whom he had the luxury of meeting when he came to Buenos Aires in 2016 thanks to the management of a well-known of a social organization that he helped. “You are the coach (you are the coach) he said, and I died”, says the girl from the suburbs of Buenos Aires excitedly remembering the moment.
Evelina Cabrera: Empowering women through sports
From Viceroys to the world
“I am a soccer coach, a leader and today I am in the same place as men,” the feminist leader and soccer leader who battles against the stereotypes that marked her all her life, both gender and class, said in dialogue with PROFILE . To the rhythm of cumbia, who is considered one of the hundred most influential women in the world by the BBC says that sleeping is not one of her priorities in her tight schedule, she gets up early in the morning and spends time preparing a good breakfast .
“I am very lonely, if I am not working I am studying or watching the History channel, I like to drive, listen to music, I hardly watch television. I really like the Santa Fe cumbia and the quartet, I feel that it connects me with my roots”, says Cabrera with a laugh and remarks that its main purpose is “more global” since it is about opening the door to other women to the world of sports, something that he carries out from his current role in Mexico. "Being here implies that price, being away from everyone, feeling lonely, far from your customs and affections, is a construction and implies that other women see me and empower themselves," she adds.
With an enviable diction, Cabrera assures that she likes to talk about her work not only in her current role in the club but as a social reference and leader of the AFFA, an entity that she herself co-created a few years ago and whose presidency she left after taking the decision to emigrate, but to which it continues to be linked, especially with regard to social assistance.
"I'm still connected helping the neighborhoods, the girls, from that side," said Cabrera, who has no representative and whose agenda includes people from the neighborhood who sometimes need help, to celebrities and politicians. “I was just entering the meeting with Luis Almagro and a lady from the Barrio Azul de Quilmes wrote me desperate because they had no water. Obviously I took a few minutes before entering and I answered him to see what thread he could move, ”she comments.
Born in Virreyes, in the north of Greater Buenos Aires, Evelina's story is marked by economic and emotional deprivation in her youth, when her parents worked all day to try to make ends meet while she took care of her younger siblings. . “When people sometimes complain about the poor, whom many call 'shitty people,' I say you know what it means not to make ends meet, to have thousands of jobs because you don't have enough to pay for food. That happened in my family, my parents lived working so that we could eat.
Evelina assures that her focus is the present that she reached with much sacrifice, but her past accompanies her every day. "I find it hard to sleep at night, I have horrible memories in my head, consequences of the life I had to have, from waiting to have an opportunity, a job or the possibility of studying," stresses who also disagrees with the concept of meritocracy, so praised by some sectors of politics, in terms of access to opportunities. “What is the price of merit? Deciding between paying for a bus or burning my stomach from hunger, having to doze off and thousands of jobs to be able to pay for my studies”.
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Part of her story includes leaving her house when she was just a teenager and her beginnings working on the street, from being a rag to taking care of sex workers and even suffering gender violence from a partner. .
“My experiences as a girl marked me a lot in many ways. I was left with the attitude of the people in the neighborhood, for example, if someone gives you a cigarette, everyone shares their world with you because they only have that. It also made me value the present, because in that context you don't know if a friend was caught by the police, if they were killed. When you don't have what to eat or where to sleep, you have to solve it at the moment, you can't project or visualize yourself in the future. That made me very extremist, I give everything and I live life like that. It reassures me to think that if I ever don't wake up, I've already done it all,” she reflects.
However, Cabrera assures that she prefers to be defined by her professional career and her daily work not only as a soccer coach but also as a reference for female empowerment, to which she is one hundred percent dedicated.
Sport as a promoter of social equality
“I would like that there is not so much talk about the girl who came out of the street, that already was. Now there is the one who is fighting alongside men. I am a soccer coach, a leader and today I am in the same place as the rest”, affirms the soccer influencer, as she was called by some girls who asked her for a photo on vacation in Jujuy, and acknowledges that learning about soccer marked her life. “I went against everything, I psyched myself up and postponed a lot of things to do this. I was also lucky with the context, with the women's movement,” she adds.
The truth is that today, despite advances in gender, being a woman continues to be a factor of inequality based on concepts that are still deeply rooted in society and that have to do with various stereotypes. Cabrera, who has no party affiliation but defines herself as a feminist and, between laughs, as "Evelinista", stresses that part of the fight for female empowerment has to come from sports, but not only focusing on girls, but also in boys.
“To empower women you also have to work with men. I can't go tell the woman that it's wrong for them to hit you, but you have to tell the man that it's wrong for you to hit, that you harass. Nobody says anything to the boys, I want to implement training the boys from the grassroots”, affirms the coach who also says that despite having presented projects of this style in some Argentine clubs, they were not considered and, in search of new opportunities , the possibility of emigrating to Mexico arose. “Failure leads to success, and maybe tomorrow I can return to my country in a different way. But this led me to be here and become the first woman to integrate a coaching staff in the Mexican league."
"Sooner or later professionalism will come"
In this way, the coach of the U20 Pachuca team affirms that Argentine women's soccer still needs more investment to prevent good players from leaving and achieve professionalization, in a sport dominated by men. “In Argentina, the resources are for the priority that is men's soccer. I was technical director and in turn, props, coach, physical trainer. In Mexico each one occupies a role and nothing more, they are more organized, there are suitable leaders who lowered the line so that professional women's soccer would be possible beyond social acceptance, ”she remarks.
In addition, she remembers that when she started out in soccer, she had to cut her hair short so that men would listen to her as a peer and not sexualize her. "I became a Carlitos, one more, I even spoke like them," recalls the girl who at that time wore loose clothing and did not paint herself for the same purpose.
Football with a gender perspective
In addition to speaking before the UN Assembly and having numerous awards, such as being Ambassador to the OAS to promote gender equality in sports, this year she received the Entrepreneur Of The Year award, from the EY organization, for being a “ an example of overcoming and commitment in the face of discrimination and adversity”.
Even so, she assures that from her place she will continue promoting the opening of new spaces for women. “Society treats women as 'oh poor things', who get ahead or who help others, considering it from the side of emotions. I speak from the point of view of leadership, of having achieved important professional objectives and goals. That is what I continue to do and promote, ”she pointed out.