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Don't Call Them Girls...They're Ballers

Julie Wolf Jingkids 2021-10-19

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The first Women’s Football Championship (soccer for us Americans) in Beijing is happening this weekend and though they're too young to imbibe, a group of teen girls is looking to take home the inaugural Mojito Cup.


Back in March, Shanghai’s La Social hosted the first-ever cup and Beijing demanded their own tournament so on Saturday, Sep 11, six local teams will compete at Ba Li Dian Elementary School.



Among them will be the South America Football Academy (SAFA) Chica’s, an international group of young ladies, all in their teens, led by Coach Armando Hernández. Hernandez is a 12-year Beijing veteran and new father who helped found SAFA. He proudly told me, “We are actually one of the first football academies in Beijing to have put together a female squad to compete.” His passion for the game is obvious and he passes that enthusiasm on to his players.


I asked him why he chose to put this group of young players up against adults and he explained, “Unfortunately there are not many competitions available for female football. I am grateful to the organizers for their efforts and for allowing us to take part even though we are an underage team.”



For their part, the ladies don’t seem intimidated by the competition at all. In fact, they welcome the opportunity. According to 16-year-old Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) student and SAFA goalkeeper Elisa Bellillo, “Some people might think it’s not fair, but life is not fair and the girl's team can always learn so much when playing against adults.”


That positive energy and can-do spirit is a team trait. 15-year-old defensive player Ida Mareike Hoffmann and a student at The German Embassy School of Beijing echoes the sentiment. “I got involved with SAFA in 2021 because my friend asked me. It's a great community and just so much fun.”


Coach Hernandez remarked on the team’s comradery as well. “This team has been together for not too long, but it has already developed good chemistry among the players. They are already playing a good brand of football, but the most exciting thing is that I can see so much room for improvement still… I couldn’t be more pleased, because I have an amazing group of people to work with.”



Make sure you head over to the field by 2pm for the kick-off this Saturday and help cheer these amazing young ladies on. Awards will be given out at Nali Patio’s La Social at 8pm, followed by an after-party at Mosto.


Images: Courtesy of Armando Hernández

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