Nagasato breaks football’s gender barrier

Yuki Nagasato is already mentioned as a football legend in Japanese women’s football. Having scored 58 times in 132 caps for the Japanese national team, helping them to lift the 2011 World Cup trophy, the 33-year-old striker is ready to break an outstanding barrier: Be the first woman to compete in a men’s match!

Two days ago the Japanese amateur men’s club Hayabusa Eleven have announced that they’ve acquired Yuki Nagasato on loan from US club Chicago Red Stars, where she competed professionally last year. There was no misprint: Nagasato accepted the challenge and again opened a trendy topic: Can women compete equally against men in a football match?

This is something we’ll just wait and see. Nagasato is a real threat in the box when it comes to women football. But can she take advantage of her speed and intelligence against a bulky center-back? And what about body challenge?

Nagasato is too old to take this recklessly. She knows that this nearly unknown amateur men’s team will make a lot of headlines in the days to come. All lights will be on her. And this challenge will surely be something like a role model in the near future. If Nagasato succeeds, we’ll actually see a lot of talented women footballers making it to men’s teams.

But, is this legal? In amateur level, it’s more than legal. Actually, there are a lot of first-level football associations worldwide, who allow and encourage mixed gender football in youth ages. In England, the FA has voted to extend mixed gender football from 16 to 18 years. Switzerland and The Netherlands allow it until 19, Germany and Italy at 17.

As there’s no distinction between amateur and professional teams, if a girl is becoming a football star at young age, she could compete in men’s clubs until she turns adult. But in professional football there are limits, set by FIFA. Actually there is no strict rule excluding women from men’s football, this was considered self-evident when football rules were created.

But there’s always the Maribel Dominguez precedent. In 2004 Mexican club Celaya, then competing in second division, tried to sign the top Mexican women’s football star. FIFA, world’s governing body, in an official statement has ruled that Dominguez was not eligible to play for the club. Also Italian club Perugia made an offer to German football legend Birgit Prinz, but later admitted there was more a publicity stunt than true interest of incorporating a woman to a men’s club.

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