Meet the VerDonnas – Palmeiras’ female supporter group

 

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Last September, the “VerDonnas” celebrated their first anniversary. If you haven’t heard about the movement, it’s about time; what these women are doing is highly relevant and necessary!

Tired of facing machismo and aggression in different forms at football stadiums, 11 female Palmeiras supporters last year founded a group with the aim to unite female supporters, stimulate each other and watch games together. In less than a month, the movement had thousands of followers on social media and more than 300 women interacting through whatsapp.

How are the VerDonnas doing, now that a year has passed since the initial buzz? Find out in this interview with one of the founders, Tainá Shimoda. Enjoy!

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Where you influenced by any other movement or female supporter group when creating VerDonnas?
Actually, when we created the group, it was a spontaneous idea. But after we had started it, we discovered that there were many other groups, and many were ahead of us, so we really used some of them as inspiration. 

Would you consider female supporter groups from other teams primarily as rivals or as sisters to draw strength and inspiration from?
Primarily as sisters. We are in this together, we know that we first and foremost are women who fight for the same things. As a matter of fact, we are really close to some rival groups. Here in São Paulo we have a partnership with Movimento Alvinegras (they support Corinthians), Bancada das Sereias (Santos) and São Pra Elas (São Paulo FC). We are also part of a bigger group that unites female supporter movements from all of Brazil. We plan things together and we exchange experiences and ideas. Of course, when it comes to matches and cheering for our team, we are still rivals to the end.

What are the biggest challenges today for female supporters?
We have come a long way, but we still face sexism and harassment. Although things are improving, change need to happen. For example, there are too few female police officers conducting the mandatory searches at stadium entrances, and there are few policewomen inside the stadium, which is one of the main reasons why some girls feel unsafe. One of the solutions debated is installing Delegacias da Mulher, special police stations dedicated to women, in stadiums. There are also things to be done outside of the stadium, which have more to do with the clubs boards of directors, council and the management of football itself; there are still too few women on these positions, which makes it harder for us to be heard and represented, of course.

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How many do you regularly gather on game day?
On game day we try to get together before the game to talk, have a few beers and leave for the stadium together. We gather from 5 to 30 girls, it depends a lot on the game and the day. We are always welcoming more people to join us!

Have you noticed any improvements in the attitude towards you – individually or as a group – since you started? Any backlashes? Online haters?
In our perception, there is much more positive commentary than negative talk. The feedback, since the beginning, has been really good, with people seeing what we are about, saying they are glad and thanking us for the very existence of the group. Of course there are haters, unfortunately it’s an aspect of the society we live in. Some people disagree, others say we lie or that it’s not a worthy cause. But we do not falter, as these form a small minority, a small group of people and we believe in the importance of what we’re doing.

Do you also get together and travel for away games? Or watch away games together?
We have travelled and gotten together with other members once or twice in away games. Also, we organise events in São Paulo to watch away games from time to time. 

Do you do any events not related to watching Palmeiras play?
We’ve organized some meetings to discuss the group and other issues the girls have brought to the table. And together with the other female supporter groups I mentioned earlier, we watched Brazil’s first game in the Women’s World Cup this year.

You have sponsors?
We have a partnership with the bar where we gather before the games (Bar Virgula, on Rua Palestra Italia 471 – editor’s comment). They give discount rates to all VerDonnas members. In addition, we always seek partnerships to be able to give away products and tickets to our followers on social media, especially on Instagram.

How do you see the future of women’s football at Palmeiras? Is the approach and the investment adequate, at this point?
It is a beginning. An important one. But Palmeiras should not stop there. We need more investment and there are many teams that Palmeiras can look to for inspiration. We really hope that the women’s team gets more attention and that Palmeiras improves the facilities for the girls. Palmeiras should not only maintain the team, but be active on the player market and also review the partnership, allowing Palmeiras to exercise full control and responsibility for everything related to the women’s team. 

How go about to increase female participation also in decision-making spheres within Palmeiras?
At Palmeiras, in order to participate effectively and be part of the decision-making, you have to be a member of the club. This is a bit of a barrier in a society where men are supposed to provide and pay for the majority of things. More women must become members, make their voices hear, bring a female outlook to the debates. It is also important to support the women who are already there, in the club, wanting to hold positions. Show that it’s possible, encourage them. We believe VerDonnas can contribute in this sense, raising awareness, getting more women to the stadiums, closer to football and the club.

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