- Sandy Dorador played top-flight football at 13 and for Peru aged 15
- She became a mother at 17 but carried on playing
- Dorador is hopeful for the future of Peruvian women's football
Every time her brothers ask her for a memento from the national team or her club, Alianza Lima, Peru international Sandy Dorador laughs to herself. “So now it’s OK, but when I wanted to play with you when I was a girl you didn’t let me,” she replies, only half-jokingly.
The 31-year-old has been through a lot in the last 25 years or so, experiencing things that have shaped her personality and have made her something of a role model in Peruvian women’s football.
“I was six. I’d watch them on the pitch or in the park and I could feel myself enjoying it,” the forward told FIFA.com. “I wanted to be there kicking the ball, but they just didn’t want to know.
“There was a lot of sexism around and discrimination against women in general, not just me,” explained Dorador, the face of the #QueremosSerVistas (We Want to be Seen) gender-equality campaign. “The situation’s better now but we’re still fighting against negative things.”
Far from discouraging her, the discrimination she suffered only made her stronger: “My mother was there to support me and I’d run off to another neighbourhood to play with my friends. That’s when I found out how much I liked it and that I was good at it.”
Dorador was so good, in fact, that from the age of ten she was invited to play for a boys’ team in local tournaments: “Some of them didn’t want to because I was a girl, but the locals would ask for me and I’d end up playing.”
Dorador was 12 when a friend took her along to her first club, Universidad Catolica. A year later she was making her first-division debut, though she did not have the greatest of starts. “They played me because the rules said that they needed to have someone under the age of 15 on the pitch," she explained. "It wasn’t good.”
Six months later she joined JC Sport Girl: “The club became my second home. That’s where I grew, won a title and even ended up playing in the first women’s Copa Libertadores in 2009.”
Dorador was called up by Peru’s youth teams for the first time at 13 and made her senior international debut two years later. It was not long after that her life took an unexpected turn.
“Women’s football isn’t professional even now, so you can imagine what it was like back then,” she said, taking up the story. “There were ten of us at home and, as well as carrying bags or sand for the neighbours, I’d help my mum out by playing tournaments for money.
“One day I played in a final at a slaughterhouse. I felt sick before the game and vomited. My friend said it wasn’t normal and that I should go and see a doctor. I played anyway and we won a bull, which we sold so we could split the money.”
A day later came a piece of news that led to her growing up overnight: “I found out I was four months pregnant. There was less information at the time and I didn’t know the symptoms. I didn’t know how my family would take it.
"I was playing my best football: I’d won the title with my club and I was in the national team. I was scared but I never thought about walking away. And having Uciel was a blessing from God.”
Dorador played in the 2006 and 2010 Copa America Femenina tournaments, but missed the 2014 and 2018 competitions, one to look after her son and the other because of work commitments.
“I’d already given up two jobs for the national team and this time I put the family first, which says a lot about Peruvian women’s football,” she said, who now makes a living selling clothes. “They demand results from us here but they don’t know what our lives are like, what we do before we go to train, if we have a proper breakfast, if we work, if we look after children, if we have a proper lunch. They need to think about the youngest girls. There’s a competition but it’s not professional.”
Sandy, who has also played for Peru’s women’s futsal team, is optimistic about the future nonetheless: “The federation is giving us a lot more support. The 2019 Pan American Games, which took place here in Peru, opened a big door for us, even if the results weren’t the best.”
Looking beyond the break enforced by Covid-19, she does see promising signs on the pitch under Peru's Brazilian coach: “Doriva Bueno has changed our mindset. We don’t just think about defending against the big teams; we try and play. With a little work and time, there’s a future for us.”
Dorador, who is currently taking her coaching badges but is also interested in refereeing, thought about retiring from the game in 2019 when she was at Sporting Cristal: “My son asked me for more time for him and his father, but then the offer came in from Alianza Lima. We’re all big fans of the club and they were the ones who told me to go and make my dream come true.”
She has repaid their faith in style. One of the team’s leading goalscorers in the last league season, she also appears in the club video promoting its women’s team’s new social media pages.
“Alianza is investing more than most clubs in the sport,” said Dorador. “The team’s not professional but they’ve paid us an allowance during the pandemic. I’ve had an amazing journey to get here but it’s been difficult and long too. I hope stories like mine make it easier for the ones coming up behind.”
Female role models: “In my life: my mum. In football: Marta. I played against her in the inaugural Copa Libertadores Femenina and I’ve admired her ever since.”
Her striking skills: “I’m a born goalscorer but I can battle too and lift my team. I hate losing. I’m like Paolo Guerrero or Luis Suarez.”
An unforgettable goal: “Two. My son Uciel and the diving header I scored when I captained the U-20 side to a 1-0 win against Uruguay on 4 January 2006. It was my birthday too.”
Hobbies: “Listening to music, especially salsa when I’m cleaning and cooking, and cooking. They say I’m a good cook and that I do a good chicken stew.”