Ary Borges was walking around the training facilities near Lynn Family Stadium watching a pair of Louisville City and Racing Louisville youth academy games when she caught something that stopped her in her tracks and left her covered in goosebumps.
Having grown up in Brazil, where, as she told The Equalizer, children are practically born with the ball at their feet, Borges was accustomed to seeing soccer played everywhere she went, but not like this. What she observed was a culture shock situated within the most familiar cultural landscape she could find when she was 3,850 miles away from her hometown of São Luis.
“I saw how normal it was for girls to be playing on the field,” she said. “People would stop way more to watch the girls than the boys.”
Borges, who signed with Racing Louisville last December and plays on the Brazilian national team, said her friends who play or have played in the National Women’s Soccer League had prepared her for the shock of seeing how much more interest women’s soccer garnered in the U.S. than back home, so she wasn’t surprised, per se. She was touched.
“That was a big reality check for me,” she said, “seeing people cheering after every single game and realizing there is a place that values and cherishes girls that play soccer.”
Brazilian players have increasingly been migrating to the NWSL in recent years, drawn as much to the opportunity to diversify their skills as they are to playing in a league that is overall more professionalized than the Campeonato Brasileiro de Futebol Feminino. There are currently nine Brazilian nationals in the NWSL, second among internationals only to Canada, which has 15 but lacks a domestic professional league and shares both a border and national language with the U.S. There are twice as many players from Brazil in the NWSL as there are Mexican nationals, a sign, perhaps, of the growth and allure of LigaMX Femenil.
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