Out on the pitch, they finally can feel like themselves.
In addition to the sheer joy that football brings them, Mara Gomez and Marcos Rojo have the extra satisfaction of knowing that after a long and difficult journey, they are blazing a trail for transgender players in Argentina.
Tall, slim and with her hair tied back in a ponytail, Gomez plays for the team of Villa San Carlos in La Plata, 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of Buenos Aires.
At 23, she aims to become the first transgender player in the new women’s professional league in her native country.
“I suffered a lot from discrimination, exclusion, verbal abuse in the street and in school. Football was like therapy for me,” Gomez told AFP.
She started playing at 15, encouraged by neighbors.
In the women’s league in La Plata, Gomez distinguished herself as a leading goal scorer in the past two seasons.
That prompted Villa San Carlos, in last place in the women’s professional league, to seek to recruit her.
“She’s quick and is very good at kicking on target,” said trainer Juan Cruz Vitale.
“Unlike what people and the media were thinking, she isn’t that strong. I have a number of girls who are stronger and even though she’s fast, I have girls who are faster,” he noted.
But Vitale added: “She’s smart and learns quickly. And she gets goals, which is what we were lacking.”
The club is in the process of submitting its application to the Argentine Football Association to sign Gomez up, once the current coronavirus lockdown