This article originally appeared on VICE Spain.
It has been a great year for women's football in Spain. A league match between Atlético Madrid and Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitan in March reached a world record attendance of 60,739. And at the Women's World Cup, the Spanish side eased through the group stages and put in a great performance against Team USA – the tournament's heavy favourites – in the Round of 16, only to be knocked out by two penalties.
Despite this success, Spain's national team and club sides have a long way to go before they reach the status of their male counterparts. You see, for example, how little attention people pay to the women's game in how nobody has ever bothered to make an official sticker album for the Liga Iberdrola – Spain's top-flight women's club competition. That is, until now.
María Vázquez is a mother of three from Badajoz – a city in southwest Spain. When her daughters wanted to know why there weren't any sticker albums dedicated to the women's football league, Maria didn't have an answer. So she decided to make the stickers herself by cutting the images up by hand, one by one.
"I thought I would only make stickers for the teams they support, but they kept asking for more and more – and so in the end I decided to make an entire album," Maria explains. She eventually made 368 stickers last season, and has already put together 400 for the upcoming season.
For each player she creates two cards: one featuring an action shot and the other their official, formal club portrait. And whenever María struggles to find a high-res photo that's good enough, she turns to the clubs themselves for help. "If I couldn't find what I needed, I would ask the team photographers who were always willing to help when I explained what it was for." At one point she even turned to social media for help. "The response was incredible," Maria remembers. "My phone went crazy. I couldn't understand why it had drawn so much attention. I didn't expect that reaction at all – but I'm glad people found it useful."
Although María's initial and current plan is to just make her daughters happy, she now appreciates how her initiative has shed light on the challenges the women's game faces when it comes to getting recognition. "If it's been a good thing for women’s football, then I'm happy," she tells me.
Until recently, it was practically impossible to find an official shirt with the name and number of a Liga Iberdrola player. Now, more and more clubs and fans are realising that something has to change. "Obviously, there is still a long way to go, but over the last two years things have really come along," Maria says. "Clubs seem to be betting more and more on their women's team, and that is empowering."
Her daughters have now met many of their heroes thanks to the players getting in touch to thank Maria for her efforts. "It was really shocking for my daughters to see how many players knew about the stickers. The girls would take the stickers with them to get them signed."
Maria has a lot of more work to do – her daughters have asked for albums of women's teams in other sports, too – futsal, basketball, handball. At the moment, all these albums are just for personal use, but Maria hasn't ruled out selling them in the future. "It's a delicate issue," she says. "We must agree on who owns the rights to the players' images, the competition, the clubs, the sponsors. It's complicated." But she's not too bothered either way, as she gets a lot of satisfaction from giving it away, and making sure that they are "within everyone's reach".