Sunday 26 May 2019, 07:47

Meet the Team Reporter: Chile

  • Cecilia Lagos will be covering Chile's Women's World Cup debut for FIFA Digital

  • The experienced broadcaster shares her journey, talks overcoming obstacles

  • "The national team has given women’s football enormous visibility in the country"

For the first time at a FIFA Women’s World Cup™, FIFA’s coverage of France 2019 will be spearheaded by 24 Team Digital Content Producers, offering expert insight and exclusive behind-the-scenes content on each of the participating sides.

Between now and the big kick-off, some of these Team Reporters will be sharing their stories and expectations for the upcoming showpiece. Today it's the turn of Cecilia Lagos, an experienced broadcaster who will be covering Chile in their first-ever Women's World Cup appearance.

Cecilia's story

I fell in love with football when I was just five, with the FIFA World Cup™ of 1982. Chile striker Carlos Caszely missed a penalty against Austria in the group stage and, for days, all I would hear and read was the word “penal” (penalty in Chile). It was on radio, TV, in newspapers, from family - everywhere.

It made me so curious. What did ‘penalty’ mean? So I started watching the rest of the World Cup with my dad. After a while, I realised there were some common things occurring every time the commentator said “penalty”. So I asked my father: “Dad, is a penalty when a man falls close to the goal?” “Yes, my girl. Something like that,” he told me. And the rest is history.

By the age of 11, I already knew I wanted to be a sports journalist. But in 1988, in Chile at least, that was like talking about working with computers in the 1700s.

I also wanted to play football. I was naive enough to think I could join my favourite club’s academy with the boys, so at 13 my mother took me to their headquarters and the guy behind the desk just laughed and said he didn’t think that would happen. “I will ask the academy director anyway and call you back,” he told us. Of course, that never happened. We had to call him weeks later and he said in a rush that the answer was no. We knew he’d never asked. And there went my ambitions of becoming a footballer.

But I was determined to make at least one of my dreams come true, so at 14 I started writing a football column. It was published in the sports section of one of Chile’s most popular national newspapers. I’ve spent 30 years since then working as a sports journalist for radio, digital media, TV and the written press, and done so at some of the biggest national and global outlets.

Cecilia Lagos, Chile Team Reporter at France 2019.

However, it was only when I became the first and, to date, only female journalist to present and comment on football highlights on national prime-time television that I discovered the consequences of being a woman who dares to talk about this game of ours. I had to deal with severe abuse, harassment, threats and hatred from fans, but also from other colleagues, who angrily judged and insulted me on social media without knowing me at all.

I was shocked. Although I eventually understood the problem was theirs, I started keeping a lower profile out of self-preservation. Over time, I discovered that, no matter my capabilities, there was a very low glass ceiling.

It was exhausting. For the first time in my life, I really considered giving up. I felt caged - until I reacted. I’m a fighter by nature, and I just couldn’t leave my dreams unfulfilled. That’s why, at 40, I decided to leave for Europe to pursue my biggest ambitions, and time has proved me right.

The tagline of this Women's World Cup has, in fact, been an enormous inspiration for this stage of my life because, now more than ever, I dare to shine!

Breaking down barriers

The landscape is slowly improving for women's football in Chile, but we’re still light years away from an ideal situation.

That’s why qualifying for this first FIFA Women’s World Cup has been immensely significant for La Roja. Just consider that before this, and for two whole years, Chile disappeared entirely from the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking.

Now, the national team has given women’s football enormous visibility in the country. They have filled stadiums, broken TV rating records, and little kids – of both genders – consider them heroes.

It’s wonderful to see these new generations reacting so positively in a country in which women’s football is still mostly amateur. I’m sure that, thanks to Chile’s participation in the Women’s World Cup, many girls who love football will pursue a career in the game. They’ll follow that dream because they’ll see that it’s actually possible.

I fully expect this tournament will be a game changer for the visibility of women in football, in Chile and in the world as a whole. To me, that visibility is key.

As women, we need our talents, abilities and knowledge showcased for the whole world to see. This Women’s World Cup can help achieve that, propelling forward women’s football - and females working in the game.

This will be my very first World Cup working on site and I’m incredibly excited to accompany these young Chilean women as they make history. I feel so grateful and blessed, and can’t wait to share their amazing journey with everyone back home and across the world.