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Football's heroines who don't appear in sticker collections

I saw her whilst watching the first league game of the new season at San Mamés. During the interval Athletic Club's women's team were paraded and received a warm ovation from the crowd. I waved to her with a mixture of pride and happiness. Happy to see her on the pitch and proud that I considered her as my friend as she flashed me back her perennial smile. I went pitch side and asked her how she was, her voice trembled as she replied that she sustained an injury just that morning, admitting that, perhaps, she'd been pushing herself too hard in training. Aware that this injury would see her out of action for a number of weeks I tried to encourage her by stating that time would fly by. "Consider it as a little break", I said. She appreciated my words of support but ended by stating: "Galder, you simply don't understand, you're not a footballer".

Partido del Athletic femenino en San Mamés.

I made my way back to my seat and sat beside my son who asked me: "Dad, isn't she an Athletic Club Femenino player?" I sat down and observed her as she watched the game, she would have loved to be playing, challenging for every breaking ball and giving her all on the field of play. Yes, she is certainly a football player I concurred and an excellent one to boot.

I was reminded of her again some weeks later when Panini Spain confirmed that there would be no sticker collection to coincide with the new Women's Primera Iberdrola league. The director of the company apparently citing poor sales of the France 2019 Women's World Cup as the reason. I though of my friend, reading this story as she carried out her rehabilitation. I imagined her closing the door of packed and noisy house before heading out to play. I imagined her in the gym pushing herself against the pain in an attempt to regain full fitness as soon as possible.

For many, a footballer is simply an individual who appears in a sticker collection but the reality is greater than that. A  footballer is someone who loves the game, who cries when deprived of playing. My friend would die to get back on the pitch again and this is a reality that no-one can deny her.

They often say that real heroes don't wear capes. Real football players don't appear in sticker collections either.