A girls' soccer team joined the boys' league and won the regional championship

A girls' soccer team joined the boys' league and won the regional championship

Perhaps it's time to rethink gender segregation in sports. 

After realizing a single girls' team was consistently dominating their league, Sergio González, president of amateur soccer club AEM Lleida in Spain, decided to register the team for the boys' league in 2014. 

And in 2017, they beat out 13 boys' teams to claim the junior regional league championship.

"A few parents called us crazy when we registered the team," González said in an interview with the New York Times. "If this had gone very wrong, we would have been held responsible for humiliating the girls."

Admittedly, the team got off to a rocky start. According to the Times, the girls only managed to clinch the 12th spot in their first season, which included 18 teams at the time. 

Still, José María Salmerón, AEM's general director, believed the only way the girls would get better is by competing against players better than them — they wouldn't improve if they kept crushing the same girls' teams every year.

"To push these girls, we felt they had to play against boys because you need strong opponents to make real progress," Salmerón said.

Spain's soccer federation rules say clubs can include players of all genders for junior competitions up until the age of 14, making it perfectly legal for the girls' team — comprised of girls as young as 7 — to compete against boys.

But not everyone was so keen on the idea once the girls started winning.

"It's really been more a problem for parents rather than their boys," Salmerón told the Times. "It's strange, but most of the macho comments and insults have come from the mothers of some of the boys we play."

There had been other slights, too — referees who insisted on calling the girls "las princesas," or the princesses, or those who assumed the girls may have wandered onto the wrong field.

The girls aren't letting these gender biases get them down, though. Andrea Gómez, the team's top scorer, said she lets her performance on the field do the talking. 

"I always try to show that soccer isn't just for boys," she said.