International Women's Day

Argentina’s groundbreaking football radio show

Laura Corriale, Ayelen Pujo, Karina Vazquez and Elsa Silvestre broadcast football at Radio del Plata in Argentina
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  • A team of women are broadcasting first division matches in Argentina
  • One of them is a veteran of the only similar initiative from 25 years ago
  • FIFA.com spoke to the people behind an inspirational programme

When Fabiana Segovia took over as the director of Radio Del Plata in November 2020, one of the major challenges she faced was finding a new direction for broadcasting men’s football matches on one of Argentina’s oldest radio stations.

“I’ve been a football fan since I was a little girl and I used to go to watch matches until I started working as a radio producer,” Segovia, who is 51 and has more than two decades of experience in the field, told FIFA.com. “I felt that Del Plata should, at the very least, cover River Plate and Boca Juniors, but I wanted to do something different to what everyone else was doing.” 

The idea for a women-only programme came from Hernan Avella, a radio presenter she had been working with for a long time. 

It was a revelatory moment for her in more ways than one, as she explained: “It was a Saturday and I said, ‘I love the idea. I’ll ask on Monday’. And it was then that I realised that it was my decision to make and mine alone. I still wasn’t used to that.” 

She asked other people what they thought. “I spoke to Antonio Fernandez Llorente, my co-director, and he liked the idea too. And that’s how the idea of putting together a team of women to broadcast River and Boca games came about.”

A passion shared

Discussing her next challenge, she said: “There are plenty of women who know about football, but not so many who commentate on it. I asked a few people and got a couple of recordings. They put a lot it into but they were young and they didn’t have the right voice for it yet. And then I came across Laura Corriale. She’s the stadium announcer at Huracan and she was just what I was looking for.”

Corriale, 30, is a dedicated football fan too. “I always have been, so much so that I learned to walk on a pitch,” she told FIFA.com. She started working as a presenter at 21 and has long had links with Huracan, where she was the press officer. In 2016, she became the club’s stadium announcer, making her only the second woman to hold such a position with an Argentinian first division club.

“I did a commentating course in 2013,” she explained. “There were three women on it but the other two dropped out after a couple of classes. The only commentating I’d ever done, though, was during the 2018 World Cup, for a feminist initiative on a community radio station. That’s why I wasn’t sure about accepting. Fabiana gave me time to think it over, though, and here I am, delighted to be on board.”

One of the first people Segovia contacted was Elsa Silvestre, someone she knew well. “She’s pretty much the cornerstone of what we’re doing. She took part in the first women-only broadcast 25 years ago. And just as she was then, I asked her to be the main presenter.”

Though Silvestre is not so much of a football fan, the game formed part of her early days in both radio, working as a roving reporter during the 1978 World Cup, and on TV. And that was before her part in that pioneering experience a quarter of a century ago.

“There were seven of us and we went out on a FM station and a AM station, which were both local,” she told FIFA.com. “We were on air between 1996 and 1997, but it didn’t work because we lacked support. I haven’t done any more football work until now. I thought it was important to support this project.”

Ayelen Pujol broadcasts football at Radio del Plata in Argentina
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Ayelen Pujol was recommended to Segovia for the pundit’s role. A sports journalist, the 38-year-old Pujol is the author of two books on the history of women’s football in Argentina: Qué jugadora (“What A Player”) and Barriletas cósmicas (“Cosmic Kites”). 

Pujol has been involved in the game for as long as she can remember and used to play before giving it up in her teens. “I’d get really upset about what they said about the women who play it,” she said.

“That all changed later and I channelled my love for the game by studying something that kept me involved. And through feminism I learned to analyse gender issues. I stopped feeling insecure about it, which was just because I hadn’t done it before, and accepted the offer. I put it all in perspective – it’s really important for women to get opportunities like this.”

Karina Vázquez broadcasts football at Radio Del Plata in Argentina
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For the show’s co-presenter, Segovia chose Karina Vazquez, who happens to be the first female stadium announcer in Argentina, a post she occupied with Argentinos Juniors. “I didn’t have any connection with football until I studied broadcasting, and the first time I came into contact with the club was through a social initiative,” the 49-year-old told FIFA.com.

“In 2016, they offered me the job of stadium announcer, which was unheard of at the time. But Fabiana’s project appealed to me in so many different ways. I loved the fact that a long-standing radio station was giving its backing to a woman and that the woman in question was brave enough to get other women involved in the job of broadcasting men’s football.” 

Rounding off the team is the journalist Delfina Corti, who provides stats on the women’s game in pre-match build-ups, at half-time and after the final whistle.

Elsa Silvestre broadcasts football at Radio del Plata in Argentina
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Taking shape

The whole team acknowledges that the project would not exist without Segovia. They see it as part of a wider trend in which women are occupying more prominent roles. Yet, despite the sexism they have encountered in their careers, they made an important decision at their first team meeting, as Segovia explained: “We didn’t want the programme to be feminist. We said: ‘Now that we’ve got this opportunity, we want people to listen to us because we’re good, not because we’re women’.”

“We never make a point of the fact that this is the only women-only show out there but we do touch on issues relating to feminism, in our own way,” added Corriale. “For example, if there’s a player who’s going through a domestic violence case and she’s playing well, we’ll point it out and we’ll also give out the number for the national domestic abuse helpline. We can’t pass that opportunity up.”

The show aired for the first time in December. “Everyone’s got a different take on the game, their own voice, and the challenge was, is and always will be to fit them all in,” said Segovia. “The rehearsals we did were a starting point but we’re still working on the product, which is good, and the girls, who are trying to find their own styles.”

The feedback so far has been very positive, as Silvestre explained. “When we’re on air, I can see that we’re getting a lot of approval from women, especially on social media. Men tend to text more, and though some of them say we should talk a bit faster, the messages we get are generally supportive.”

Looking to the future

The team has covered only one women’s match to date, the final of the first professional league championship between River Plate and Boca Juniors. As Vazquez pointed out, it posed a challenge on several levels: “I’ve usually got more than enough back-up info but for that match it was really hard to find. I noticed a massive difference.” 

Nevertheless, the results were positive. “We got messages from Spain, Holland, France and elsewhere. It was crazy. It was a rewarding experience that gave us lots of things to think about, such as bringing more people into the team. We don’t have a second commentator and we’ll have to train one because there aren’t that many around."

It is a reminder to the team of the lack of female role models they had ahead of their involvement in the project. As a result, they are all aware of the parts they have to play, as Corriale explained. “I’m not sure I’m an example to others. The way I see it, some girls might want to commentate like me and others in a totally different way.”

Giving her view, Pujol said: “I think it’s really important that young girls can see and listen to women talking about football and say, ‘I can do it if I put my mind to it’. It’s really important to have role models.”

Rounding off, Vazquez commented: “I’m sure this project will lead on to others. People are already getting qualified. We’re leading the way and we’ve opened a door. You have to create an overall vision and have different qualifications feeding into it, not just dissertations and workshops. What we want for the people coming up behind us is for them to make it because they’re good, not because they’re women.”

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