Four players from Argentina’s national women’s team withdrew from international duty last week over “humiliating” pay and inadequate training conditions. Goalkeeper Laurina Oliveros, midfielder Lorena Benítez, and defenders Julieta Cruz and Eliana Stábile demanded better investment in women’s football.

“We are tired of the injustices, of not being valued or heard, and worse, being humiliated,” Cruz wrote on social media, sharing a squad photo. “We need improvements for Argentina’s women’s national team, and it’s not just about money. It’s about proper training, meals, and basic necessities.” This decision came just before matches against Costa Rica in Buenos Aires, for which the players said they couldn’t claim expenses.

All four players from Boca Juniors also raised concerns about the lack of proper meals. Benítez highlighted that during recent training sessions, the team received only a ham and cheese sandwich and a banana afterward and were told there was “no money.” She added that families had to pay 5,000 pesos (£4.30) for match tickets.

“Why should I leave my children, family, club, and job to go where we aren’t valued as athletes and can’t get basic needs?” Benítez questioned. “We’ve endured many challenges representing our country, and many have left due to the sadness rather than joy it brings.”

Stábile expressed her frustration on Instagram: “I’ve been tired for some time over the lack of interest in women’s football.” Oliveros emphasized the need for change for future players: “I wish future generations can enjoy playing as we once did.”

Estefanía Banini, who left the national team last year, supported the players on social media, saying, “It was a matter of time.” However, coach Germán Portanova suggested that while he understood their decision, progress could be achieved through dialogue, acknowledging the advancements made but recognizing the need for more.

In Buenos Aires, women and girls actively play football, yet investment doesn’t match their enthusiasm. This protest highlights ongoing issues in Argentinian women’s football, contrasting sharply with the men’s team, celebrated after their 2022 World Cup win.

Historically, women’s national team players faced dire conditions, such as sleeping on buses during World Cup tournaments in the early 2000s and wearing secondhand men’s shirts. In 2017, the team fell off FIFA rankings due to two years of inactivity and financial struggles, leading to a strike over unpaid $10 stipends.

Reports indicate that the average monthly salary for a female player in Argentina’s Primera División is about $178, forcing many to have second jobs. The Argentinian Football Association (AFA) couldn’t confirm this figure, stating that each player signs an individual contract.

In 2018, after protesting with a cupped ear gesture to signal being unheard, forward Belén Potassa remarked, “We live in a football-mad country but with a lot of machismo. Football here means Messi, Higuaín, Maradona, and no one else.”

Though the women’s team was granted semi-professional status in 2019 and currently ranks 33rd globally, more investment is needed. “More clubs have women’s teams now, but it’s not enough,” said football reporter Catalina Sarrabayrouse. “Authorities need to invest with the understanding that immediate revenue isn’t the goal.”

The AFA denied claims of charging for family members’ tickets, stated that food issues were temporary, and clarified that no teams receive regional travel expenses. However, they announced that the women’s team will now receive travel expenses for the upcoming matches.