Publicity Stunt or Not? Mexican 2nd Division Team Signs Female Player

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Maribel Dominguez has been a star in women's international soccer netting 42 goals in 43 games for Mexico and leading the Olympic team to a better finish than the vaunted men's squad in Athens.

Now the men are taking notice.

Dominguez confirmed Wednesday that she had signed a contract with Celaya a top team in Mexico's second-highest professional soccer league.

"This is a dream I have had and now it is not far away Dominguez told reporters in Mexico City. "The hard thing is going to be equaling the physical force of the men but the technique the desire the willpower those are things I already have."

Celaya Vice President Mauricio Ruiz confirmed the team had signed a contract with Dominguez but did not say for how long or how much money it involved. The club plays in the First Division-A one notch below the country's top league.

Dominguez 26 turned down offers from several women's' teams abroad to accept the Celaya offer. "I want to play the kind of soccer I know how to play she said noting she will begin a special training regimen shortly to get into shape for play by mid-January.

Mexican soccer officials said Wednesday they are asking FIFA for permission to let her play in the men's leagues. Previously Dominguez starred for the Atlanta Beat in the U.S. professional women's soccer league WUSA.

"The physical structures of men and women are very different said Alberto de la Torre the head of the Mexican Soccer Federation. "But what we don't want to do is take away the possibility that she can play. We must hear from the proper authorities."

While Mexican officials said they would wait on FIFA the international group's spokesman Andreas Herren said by telephone from Zurich Switzerland that it was a local decision: "It's not something directly for FIFA to intervene."

He was also careful not to endorse a signing: "Very clearly women and men play on different teams he said later adding "In general what we see throughout the world is very clearly that women are good enough to play in a league of their own."

When asked why the federation was deferring to FIFA de la Torre said officials here couldn't proceed until soccer's governing body specifically endorsed a women playing in a Mexican men's league.

"They have done the necessary studies he said of FIFA. "We don't want anyone to get hurt. It's a contact sport."

FIFA's Herren said he was not aware of any woman ever playing for a men's professional team worldwide although U.S. national team midfielder Kristine Lilly played for the Washington Warthogs in 1995 in the now-defunct Continental Indoor Soccer League which had six players to a side playing on a cut-down field.

Last year the Italian club Perugia tried to recruit Swedish women's national team forwards Hanna Ljungberg and Victoria Svensson and later German forward Birgit Prinz but was rejected. Prinz said she believed the difference between the men's and women's game was too great for her to play for Perugia.

Armando Magana general director of two teams in Mexico's amateur national women's soccer league called Celaya's efforts to sign Dominguez a publicity stunt.

"There's no way to even compare men's soccer with women's in terms of speed height strength and ability of the players said Magana whose league has 220 players who pay to participate. "It's 100 percent different."

Dominguez stands just 5-feet-4 (1.63-meter) and "it's going to be very obvious she can't compete from the first minute Magana said. "She's a small player whose not the fastest in the women's game and with the men those weaknesses are going to be more obvious."

Mexico's constitution forbids any form of discrimination against women. A female referee Virginia Tovar worked several games in the top soccer division earlier this year.

While most welcomed Tovar star forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco was upset with some of her calls in a February game and yelled at her to "go wash the dishes."

In the just completed season Celaya finished fourth overall among 20 teams in its division.