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"I've received death threats over my Maradona protest"

24-year-old Paula Dapena's protest against the minutes' silence held for Maradona last week has generated headlines around the world. AS talks to the player about the incident.

Paula Dapena, jugadora del Viajes InteRías.

In normal circumstances, a mid-season friendly game between Deportivo la Coruña's women's team and lower league Viajes InterRías FF would fail to trouble global headlines. However, as both teams observed a minutes' silence in honour of Diego Maradona who passed away last week, Viajes InterRías FF player Paula Dapena sat on the pitch as her way of protesting about the tribute to the Argentine player.  

Dapena is well-known among her team mates for being a woman of strong feminist ideals. When she arrived at the ground in Abegondo, she revealed that she had not been aware that there would be a minute’s silence for Maradona. “As soon as I found out that there would be an act in his memory I refused to observe the minute’s silence for a rapist, paedophile and abuser,” Dapena said.

AS women's football correspondent Mayca Jiminez spoke to Dapena after her actions generated global notoriety with the gesture being poorly received in many quarters, especially in Argentina.

Dapena, de espaldas, protesta durante el minuto de silencio de Maradona.
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Dapena, de espaldas, protesta durante el minuto de silencio de Maradona.TANIA ESPERÓN

What's the fall-out from your Maradona protest?

It has been somewhat 'full-on', I can't remember how many interviews I've conducted at this point.

I noticed that you've had to delete or privatise your social media profiles?

Yes, I've received plenty of abuse from a number of social media platforms with even some of my team-mates being targeted too. It hasn't only been abuse too but there have been death threats with messages claiming they plan to find my address, track me down and 'break my legs'.

Are you planning on looking at legal measures or are you anxious to simply put he episode behind you as soon as possible?

There's certain comments I'm prepared to let go but I am anxious to expose some of these threats so at least the individuals responsible are forced to delete their accounts. I may even report some of the threats to the police but have to think that through. I'm considering all options at the moment...

Did you think your protest would go viral?

No. I thought it would be something that would stay among my group in Instagram or stretch as far as the province of Pontevedra and that would be it. I never though it would be shared around the world.

You stated that your gesture was one against domestic violence and abuse. Do you feel your protest has been take out of context?

What I was protesting about was simply the fact that, two days earlier it was the International Day against Domestic Violence Against Women and feel it was somewhat hypocritical that we held a minutes' silence for Diego Maradona, who was well known for carrying out domestic abuse.

Maradona's death coincided with The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Do you feel his death eclipsed the day?

Yes, totally, without a doubt. The media switched from talking about domestic violence against women to exclusively talking about Maradona as he was an idol for so many. The impact of such an important day for so many women was lost.

When did you decide to make your protest? Was it pre-planned?

I found out just ahead of the game that there was a tribute to Maradona ahead of kick-off and that was when I decided that I would take no part in such a tribute. It was only when I took to the pitch that I decided I'd turn my back and sit down.

As a teacher, do you feel that more players should be involved in social causes and set an example to younger children?

Yes, it's very important. football is more than just 90 minutes on the pitch. It's how you conduct yourself on the many social media platforms and kids look up to so many players as role models.

There were many women's games played after Maradona's death with tributes to the Argentine in many. Were you surprised that no other player made a protest similar to yours?

Yes, especially as it came on the same day as The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and I'd like to have seem more similar gestures.