“It’s time for girls to see that they can pursue the sport they want”

The name of Merce Castellanos (Ciudad Real, 1988) began to sound strongly thanks to the famous role played by the Spanish handball team in the last Olympic Games. “It’s true, it gave us a lot of publicity and that’s something that’s always helpful, because it seems like women’s sport isn’t valued if you don’t win,” explains the handball goalkeeper, who now plays for Costa del Sol in Malaga. They’ve already finished preseason, and he sees his team with the goals that are “the usual”: to play for the Super Bowl in December and be “as far as possible” in the league.

“It seems that in order for our work to be recognized, we have to win, and that doesn’t happen with men,” reflects the professional player. However, Castellanos also admits that everything is changing. “Everyone has become more engaged with our sport, from the fans to the media. You can notice it on social networks, in the kiosks and also in how the sponsors are growing,” emphasizes the woman from Ciudad Real.

Within sport, it’s not just about recognizing whether or not they appear in the media, but that companies see that women’s sport ‘sells’. That’s how wages are paid, after all. “Private sponsors are always needed by a team and they usually bet more on men’s sports than ours. But we are already seeing the intent of companies to support women’s sports, which is always appreciated,” he says.

“It’s time for girls to see that they can pursue the sport they want”

That is why, she emphasizes, it is so important to promote women’s sports in the public space as well. This year Castilla-La Mancha will also host a handball league for women in school sports. There is something to celebrate. “It’s time for girls to see that they can pursue the sport they want. I’m very glad that where I grew up there are women’s teams. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any.”

Her career began as a child in the Marianistas, where she played with boys in her class and was the only one. In childhood he had to play with them, because until then it was mixed. After that, she had to go on to train at another school, one of the few that offered sports for girls. “I even considered giving up handball since I was so young because I didn’t want to leave my school friends. It’s not something that should happen.” Fortunately, he was able to continue. “Most of the people I play with do it because they lived where there was women’s handball. There are certainly a lot of girls , who had to leave the sport because there was no women’s team, and of course, you end up leaving and changing sports,” she emphasizes.

But, she points out, the situation of female athletes is changing, and “a lot”. “I remember playing in Alcobendas or Alicante (when I was in my twenties) and ‘nobody knew us’. “Virtually nobody knew about the national team, I didn’t even know there was a handball team,” she emphasizes. It also helped that the team started winning titles. “That’s what attracts attention, winning titles to be a visible sport. Now we are on TV, all the games are shown, there are league games every week, we see more support and it shows,” he emphasizes.

Girls and boys who buy their t-shirts

They also notice him in the stands. “Now you go to the kiosk and you see kids and especially little girls buying the T-shirts. Our t-shirts. They also greet you and recognize you on the street,” he celebrates. “This is the important thing for them to see us, to see that there are more options and that it is possible to get to the first division and to be able to dedicate ourselves to them professionally,” reasoned the goalkeeper.

Castellanos knows that this is not a profession that can last forever, although because he plays as a goalkeeper, he has fewer injuries than other players. “But there will come a time when we must stop.” She is studying to be a teacher, but has just now started physiotherapy, which she has wanted to do for many years. “It’s a little late for me, but that’s what caught my attention,” he says.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *