The life of Concepcion Sanchez-Freire (Madrid, 1957), popularly known as Conchi ‘Amancio’, can be written if one stops to listen carefully to her accent. She continues to speak Spanish perfectly, “my mother tongue”, but the Italian and especially British notes slide into the words of a polyglot who is thanks to the use of his experiences as a footballer. She is now an expert in Holistic Sciences, as well as a specialist in aromatherapy for the treatment of coronaviruses. Before she was -and is- one of the best Spanish players in Women’s Football.
She took women’s football abroad for the first time, which she valued with an extensive career in the Calcium Italian and who ended 39 years at Arsenal in England, where he now resides. Along the way, endless stories lived with the ball as the axis, among which stand out countless titles and the captaincy of the first Spanish team from 1971, with Francoism alive. A ghost that she and other colleagues managed to crack. They were players willing to take advantage of all the cracks in the system.
Just a few months earlier, on December 8, 1970, Conchi made her debut at the Boetticher Stadium in Villaverde Alto (Madrid) with Sizam Paloma, one of the first women’s teams in Spain. The rival was Mercacredit and the final result was 5-1. All the goals from the local team added to the account of this player, who was barely 13 years old. This is how she remembers it in conversation with THE SPANISH NEWSPAPERfrom the Iberian Press group.
“I started playing in my uncle’s living room. I went up and down the stairs of an attic with energy. That was a tremendous workout. I developed a privileged physique without ever having gone to a gym. Mine was all self-taught,” explains a player which was nicknamed at the time as ‘Conchi Amancio’in reference to the recently deceased Real Madrid legend.
“I started going to the Bernabéu when the ‘yeyés’ played. Amancio was a football artist. Very technical, fine, but strong (like her, hence the comparison). My father told me to pay attention to these players. He always behaved like a gentleman with me at a time when many athletes laughed out loud at women’s football“Recalls a professional who at the age of 15 packed her bags to go to Italy. She was the fourth Spaniard, after Luis Suárez, Luis del Sol and Joaquín Peiró, to go abroad. She won ten Scudettos and five Cups in his more than two decades in the country where he was trained in every way. He played for teams like the Gamma 3 Padova, Lazio or Verona.
INDEPENDENT AND FREE
Concepción Sánchez-Freire is not a pioneer, because that term reduces his football practice to a very specific moment. In addition, he corsets his talent in a drawer where more teammates fit, who with equal merit developed women’s football. But Conchi went one step further, thanks to her perseverance in a tremendously masculinized context that cut off the heads that appeared.
“In the best golden years of Italian football we were independent. I doubt that having come under the control of the federations has been beneficial. This ended up being a control method, because it got out of hand. We made some tremendous tackles and played a great game on pitches that were potatoe”, claims the former Spanish international, highlighting the number of problems between organizations and players that now exist. This is the case of Spain and Jorge Vilda, France and Corinne Diacre, Canada, Chile…
“There was no manipulation. It was pure claw. In the 70s we already filled stadiums,” recalls Conchi. Together with her companions, they played a game with tactical and sensitive concepts that some believe they are discovering today, in the wake of the new wave of women’s football. “Many current players are treated as ‘superstars’, but you have to respect and remember what we did, some of us with excellent technique,” says the soccer player.
The pain of the leaders
“We were empowered. We broadcast it anywhere we went. We charmed many girls. That’s why it was curious when in the 2000s it was said that young players had no references. Of course there were. We were born in the heat of the demands of May 68. We were pure feminism“, expresses an elusive player, with a great vision of the game and an excellent dribble, although without all the advances of what is known by the media as the ‘golden generation’ of Spanish women’s football.
This primitive star was squeezed to the maximum in Italy. Added to the fact that she was unable to play at half speed, Conchi ended up collapsing. “In a game where nothing was at stake, during the last five minutes my knee gave out. Not because of a balance issue, but because of tiredness. She was 30 years old. They left me on the field more than necessary and I tore my cruciate ligament”, says someone who has trained as a therapist, which allows him to analyze these episodes or the one suffered by Alexia Putellas
lack of gratitude
Both are players with a very high level of responsibility that requires careful physical and emotional management. In all the photos that Conchi sends to illustrate this interview a strong player is seen, with a gesture of great concentration. “A profile that the Federation has never liked, as has been demonstrated with figures such as Vero Boquete. Strong personalities who have been left stranded, despite leading the way, “she laments.
In Conchi’s future, each duel was an opportunity to blur the caricatures that certain sectors made of her. Some of whom later tried to take advantage of a footballer without current recognition. “In Italy foreigners were left out of the hall of fame, in Spain it doesn’t even exist. I have never received recognition in my country and few know my story”, complaint, “although that doesn’t mean I stop feeling Spanish”.
Before the pandemic, Sánchez-Freire had made an effort to develop a women’s soccer academy that combined languages and sports. A different way to remain linked to the world where she spun around at full speed without fear of vertigo. “It would have been wonderful to play in these times, because they have more facilities, more respect, they charge much more money, but we were free and we grew up in street soccer. It was great to open doors”, he shoots in a last shot on goal.
The word that he shouted so many times and that he wrote with his boots stained with mud or sweat. A pride difficult to melt into medals that still have no one to put on the neck of the players who, like her, took steps forward without which all the others would have been leaps into the void.