María Teresa Hernández’s relationship with soccer began when she was a girl. Her entrepreneurship classes taught her how to combine studying with her love of soccer: she founded Club de Futbol Femenil Lioness, FC (The Lioness Women’s Football Club), a microenterprise that’s allowed several of its players to pursue their sporting and academic dreams. The victories scored by the Pink Lionesses (their nickname) have sparked interest from both companies and FIFA.
Why did you start a women’s club?
It’s my dream for women to gain recognition for playing soccer. Girls are accepted by some schools and clubs, but they aren’t allowed to grow and compete. You get told, “setting up a women’s club isn’t profitable, women don’t play, you’re not going to making a living from it, etcetera.”
How did you go from a student project to running a company?
I’d already played in eight clubs by the time I started the project, so I’d met a lot of players. I invited them to form the first team, got sponsorship, borrowed from friends and family, and Lioness made its debut in 2012. We got promoted to the first division in the first season.
What do the girls get out of Lioness?
It changes their lives, more so for the girls from indigenous communities. We get on well with FIFA because of our social program for working with Mazahua girls from the State of Mexico. Girls from this area usually think they’ve got to get married and have kids when they turn 15. Here, we give them a school, a home, and soccer. When they go back home, they bring new ideas that can change the outlook for other girls. We want to grow talent so that female players have a chance to continue studying.
What obstacles have you faced?
The lack of gender equality. Right now, the bylaws of the Mexican Football Federation mean we can’t become professional players. Your club needs to have a men’s team in order to have a women’s team in the professional division. Let’s say Veracruz wins the Liga Mx Femenil (Mexican women’s first division). If Veracruz gets relegated in the male division, so does the women’s team.
What’s your next goal?
I want to carry on changing lives. To do that, we need to be in the first division with a level playing field so that people and companies take an interest in our program. We won the Liga Nacional Femenil (women’s amateur division) in 2018 and 2019, and the results speak for themselves.
María Teresa Hernández Orduña is the founder and manager of Club de Futbol Femenil Lioness, FC (The Lioness Women’s Football Club). She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Tecnológico de Monterrey, Toluca Campus.