A Pioneer Striving For Change On And Off The Field
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She wears the number 14 shirt at FC Barcelona made iconic by Johan Cruyff and in her own way, Aitana Bonmatí Conca is creating legacies within her native Catalonia which may influence future generations as much as the legendary Dutchman.

Her name itself is a symbol of women’s liberation. Following the traditional naming customs of Spain, Aitana should have been known as Conca Bonmatí using her father’s surname first. Speaking to me exclusively ahead of the UEFA Women’s Champions League final between FC Barcelona and VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday, she told me “it’s these kind of things that add up and give zero importance to women. My parents fought for this rule to change.”

Initially she took both her mother’s names and was known as Aitana Bonmatí Guidonet but following a change in Spanish legislation during the year 2000, Aitana officially took her maternal surname first and found fame as Bonmatí rather than Conca, a player, who like her parents, always fights for what she believes in. “I believe that this character for gender and social equality runs in my family, and I am proud to have parents who have instilled these values in me. I do not like to remain silent or stand quiet before injustices.”

In March 2022, Aitana released the first part of her biography Totes unides fem força, the feminine version of the line Tots units fem força (United we are strong) in the famous FC Barcelona pre-match hymn, El Cant del Barça. There are 14 chapters in honor of Cruyff’s fabled shirt number.

The book has sold over 100,000 copies and a third version was released this spring. The day after the first leg of the Women’s Champions League semi-final against Chelsea in London, Aitana fulfilled a Catalan tradition on the day of Sant Jordi (St. George’s Day) by signing copies of her book for fans who had queued to meet her. Such has been the success of the publication, there are plans to release the book in English.

The current women’s team number 14 is also an ambassador for the Johan Cruyff Foundation becoming the first woman in 2021 to sponsor a ‘Cruyff Court’, one of the Foundation’s free-to-use small soccer fields to promote sports among children and young people, in Sitges.

As Aitana explains to me, “off the field, through his foundation, we dedicate a lot of effort so that boys and girls, regardless of the environment where they were born, have the resources to access sport and can have fun and learn through something as healthy as as practicing sports.”

As well as her work with the club’s various foundations, Aitana is also an ambassador for the United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Last autumn, on the International Day of the Girl, she visited AE Ramassà, a Spanish women’s team consisting of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. Then in April, she accompanied refugees from Honduras and Ukraine to a FC Barcelona match at Camp Nou, an experience which she tells me was as special for her as it was for them.

“The time I spent with these boys and girls at the Camp Nou was very rewarding for me. It is true, that for them, it is a unique experience after the difficulties they have experienced in their countries due to the war, for example, for which they have had to flee. Being able to spend a few moments with their idols must be very special for them.”

“But many times I think that I learn a lot from these experiences. At first you are the protagonist who makes boys and girls happy, but the truth is that I leave these meetings with the feeling that they have given me a lot and make me appreciate the life I have.”

For a child of Catalonia, it seems that Aitana has everything she will ever need at FC Barcelona, a club she has been at since the age of 13. Her current contract runs until June 2025 and she admits to me, no-one can ever be certain to play for just one team throughout their entire career.

“Never say never. I have been at Barça for 11 years, where I have grown year after year and this has allowed me to be the player I am today. I always say that I don’t close my doors to anything, because I don’t even know what will happen tomorrow, so I can’t imagine what will happen in a few years.”

For now, ahead of her team’s third successive UEFA Women’s Champions League final, her focus is on regaining the European title they won in 2021 – a game in which Aitana scored and was named Player of the Match – but lost to Lyon last year.

With Lyon, their conquerors in three of the last five seasons, already eliminated, there is a feeling among the Catalan press that anything less than victory and a second European title will be a failure for a team that have otherwise swept all before them this decade.

Aitana emphasizes that one defeat on Saturday will not erase the monumental achievements this Barcelona team have recorded this season. “In the world of sports, the line between success and failure is very fine. To this day, in this season, we have won all the titles we have been able to play for (the Spanish league and Super Cup). We already know what happened in the Copa de la Reina.”

“If we lose the Champions League, will it be a failure? Which team has reached four finals in the last five years, three of them in a row? It is clear that we all want to win but if you lose, because that’s football, you have to value everything we are achieving, which is not little.”

Since women’s soccer resumed following the Covid-enforced haitus in the summer of 2020, only twice have Barcelona failed to score in a competitive match. On both occasions, the opposition were the team standing in their way this weekend, VfL Wolfsburg.

The first time, the winner was scored by Swedish winger Fridolina Rolfö, a player FC Barcelona subsequently recruited. The second time came in the second leg of last year’s semi-final when the Germans won 2-0, a victory rendered inconsequential by the Catalans 5-1 win in the first leg before a world record attendance of 91,668 at Camp Nou.

Aitana opened the floodgates in that first game, scoring within three minutes after a typically incisive run from deep, but she knows from playing in both of those defeats not to underestimate the two-time European champions. “Wolfsburg is a great team with world-class players. A typical German team, orderly and disciplined. I hope this doesn’t happen in the final because that would mean we’ll be closer to victory. But I’m sure it will be an even match.”

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