Ahead of International Women's Day 2024, CAFE spoke with women who are passionate about access and inclusion for disabled people.

Whether disabled fans themselves, or working to remove barriers affecting disabled people in sport, we sought a wide range of experiences and opinions to shine a spotlight on the topic.

Maria Castello is the Disability Access Officer at Club Atlético de Madrid. She has seen first-hand the impact that access to live sport can have for disabled fans, as well as the barriers that women can often encounter seeking employment within sport.

What made you want to become involved with football?

I always wanted to help and meet people through sport. I started in the volunteer collective of the club, helping fans from 2 hours before the games started and always supporting my favourite team - Club Atlético de Madrid - in any way that I could. I have always felt football as something that is part of me and my family, so I have always felt welcome.


Did you ever face any barriers as a woman wanting to become involved with football?

I have never experience that personally.

The truth is that football has always been a man's world, but little by little women are making inroads and taking on roles that were not so common in the past. 

I have to say that in my field of work I feel equally valued as any other colleague, male or female. 


How do you feel the barriers faced by non-disabled women differ from those faced by disabled women?

There are physical barriers, which are gradually being removed, such as adapting workplaces. But unfortunately, there are people who still have attitudinal barriers about disabled people, which are the most difficult to remove. We need to keep showing what disabled people can do and can offer, rather than outdated thoughts on what they might not.


Do you think that disabled men have a different experience to disabled women?

In my opinion, the experience should not be different. At least, in my time as a Disability Access Officer, I have not detected any experience that is different between disabled men and women.


What can be done to remove the barriers that prevent disabled women from football?

Nowadays, I believe that any woman, disabled or non-disabled, can take part in football. They just must have the confidence and belief in themselves, be clear about their goals and be ready to fight to achieve them. Football is changing, and for the better.


What advice would you give to a disabled woman who feels that she can’t become involved in football?

My advice is to never stop fighting and not to give up, but not only in the aspect of being involved in football. Women must do it all areas of our lives, to show our worth and value.

Celebrating International Women's Day 2024

Joana Cal appointed to CAFE Board of Trustees

"When I started going to watch live football, it was very noticeable that disabled women did not go to matches very often"

"Female ambassadors and representation in the game really do make a difference, especially for young women"

"I realised later that the pressure was actually, to some extent, double. Not only am I a woman, but I am also a disabled woman"

"There still isn’t the same acceptance for women playing or watching football"

"If it means that they have to make changes for you to be welcomed, then that can only benefit the game"

"I have always felt valued as a person, but the work that we women do needs to be defended and fought for much more than that of men"

Published 8/3/2024