by Andrew Bihl
Felipe Taborda, head coach of the Colombian women’s soccer team, responded by email to these questions of women’s soccer in Colombia and on the current team. For clarity, I have edited the format and small parts of his responses, but the changes are minimal. I have tried to preserve his original meaning and intent.
I would like to thank Felipe Taborda for giving his time to help me.
First, I’d like to learn a bit about you and your role in women’s soccer in Colombia.
In addition to being the coach of the national women’s team, what other things do you do in women’s soccer?
As the national coach, I work from my home municipality and department on this subject, promoting and helping the clubs in the region and because of this the club Generaciones Palmiranas is the largest contributor to the national squad. I am very involved with the presidents of leagues in various regions, helping them to do a good job in this discipline.
How did you begin your involvement in women’s soccer?
Women’s soccer in Colombia before 2006 was nothing in our country. The arrival to power of the president Luis Bedoya began the promotion of women’s soccer in an organized and planned way, so that in 2008 a serious group appears under the direction of the professor Pedro Rodriguez and begins to work very well, winning the U-17 Copa America in Chile. From there began a new cycle of women’s soccer in the country, and they began to win at tournaments and World Cups and other events. In 2009, they managed to become champions of the Bolivarian Games, and now in 2010 with professor Ricardo Rozo they were able to qualify to the Panamerican Games and the U-20 World Cup, where they took fourth place. Then in 2012, I arrive and we manage to qualify for two U-17 World Cups, become champions of the Bolivarian Games, take second in the Central American games, and take second at the Copa America where we went unbeaten. We had the best keeper and the best player, and this team managed to earn 17 of a possible 21 points in the tournament, qualifying for the World Cup, the Panamerican Games, and the Olympics. This made me the coach of more World Cups than any other that has been in this position.
Before 2008, Colombia did not perform well in women’s soccer. In fact, Colombia often did not participate in the various tournaments for women’s soccer. However, in 2008 the under-17 women’s team won the U-17 Copa America. Then, in 2010 Colombia was the runner-up of the Copa America and the U-20 Copa America. In 2011, Colombia participated in the Women’s World Cup for the first time. Today, Colombia is a significant force in women’s soccer.
In your opinion, what changed? Why did women’s soccer in Colombia improve?
The improvement came about by the support of the Colombian soccer federation. There already were various one week-long preseason training camps [for the national team]. Those didn’t help much. Additionally, all of the leagues now have started holding tournaments in their respective departments; the Difútbol league holds three tournaments in various youth age categories. The federation, the Copa Libertadores, and many other events, with the backing of the leagues started to grow and propel the sport.
In what ways has the culture around women’s soccer changed in Colombia?
The culture has changed. The parents are encouraging their daughters to play the sport; the schools and universities have implemented soccer programs for women. The schools and clubs have launched a soccer fever in the country.
How are the players recruited in Colombia? Where do they start and how do they move to the national level?
The process of recruiting players is done through the various interleague tournaments organized by the Difútbol league. The coaching staff is present at these events and also observes others around he country.
What are the biggest challenges for the players? Do they have other jobs? What might keep them from being the best players they could be?
I believe that today there are not so many challenges because they receive financial allowances and awards y those that study at universities are accommodated for their absences.
What are your greatest challenges as the coach of the women’s team?
My greatest challenge in facing this situation is being absent from my family. This is what hits me the hardest. For everything else I am very motivated and happy to be here with the team. It’s a very caring group and is very motivated to work hard in order to achieve great things each day.
How do you envision the future of women’s soccer? What changes would you like to see in Colombia?
In our country we foresee a great future out of everything that is arising in all of the districts throughout the country. Today women’s soccer has a strong momentum in Colombia.