LIMA, Peru – On the surface, there may not seem to be anything remarkable about a soccer competition that lasts six months. After all, Latin America has dozens – if not hundreds – of them.
What makes the “Mamacha” championship special, however, is that it involves 40,000 indigenous Andean women from 13 regions in Peru.
The Second National “Mamacha” Championship for Conservationist Women concluded with Ayacucho winning the title on Dec. 12 in Lima.
The peasant women took a break from their work at home and in the fields to prove their traditional wide skirts do not prevent them from playing the Peruvian six-a-side style of soccer known as “fulbito.”
In the final, played on a makeshift field next to Lima’s National Stadium, the women of Ayacucho and Arequipa battled for the championship with Minister of Women and Social Development Nidia Vílchez in attendance. She praised the “mamachas,” an affectionate Quechua term for women, for making room in their lives for soccer without neglecting their responsibilities.
“The men’s [national] team should watch these tough women giving their all on the field,” Vílchez told the Peruvian newspaper La República. “That’s the way we’d like to see them play when they wear the Peru jersey.”
Most days, the women are busy with reforestation and farming, spending their free time playing five-a-side indoor soccer.
The winners of the competition received a trophy in addition to sacks of sugar and rice for their region, along with academic scholarships.
Arequipa, which came in second, as well as third-place Lima and fourth-place Cajamarca, received trophies and training scholarships.
The “Mamacha,” held for the first time in 2007, is an initiative by the Peruvian Agriculture Ministry with support from the Peruvian Sports Institute and private enterprises, according to state news agency Andina. The competition is open to women between the ages of 15 and 40.
Sporting events such as the “Mamacha” play a major role in the Education and Women and Social Development Ministries’ plan to reduce the 30% illiteracy rate among women in rural Peru, according to La República.