It ran the minute 94 with 57 seconds in the Devil’s Cauldron. Alejandro Medina moves down the left wing of the soccer field and crosses to the center of the area looking for the scorer Martín Prost. There were three seconds left to finish the five additional minutes that the referee had granted. The partial result marked a 2-2 between Independiente Petrolero and Guabirá, teams from Sucre –the constitutional capital of Bolivia–, and Santa Cruz –department located in the east of the country–, respectively.
Other matches in different cities were played simultaneously and, due to the results, Independiente needed a goal to be champion of Bolivian professional soccer. Medina’s pumped pass arrives for Prost’s shot, who fails to hit the ball hard. Goalkeeper Saidt Mustafá rebounds the shot and midfielder Juan Godoy appears to push her to the back of the net. It’s 95th minute with one second. For a fraction of a second The matador, one of the nicknames of Independiente Petrolero, achieves an unprecedented feat in national football. After 17 years in the second division, he achieved promotion to first division and the championship in his first year.
On the other side of the court, in the midst of the fans, Jenny Montaño, 37, followed Independiente with “a lot of nervousness.” The last minutes I could not watch the game. He just looked up at the sky and said, “Lord, may it be your will.” Perhaps he heard it and the hand of God was present during that fraction of seconds in Devil’s cauldron, as the Gilberto Parada stadium in the municipality of Montero is known, and it granted the first title in its history to the capital club, as well as a moment that she “will never be able to forget”, as she admits.
Montaño is not just another fan. That memorable December 13, 2021, dressed in red and white –the colors of her team–, jumping and haranguing with the fans, she made history with the “club of her loves”, becoming the first woman at the head of a team professional in obtaining the maximum league title of men’s soccer in Bolivia. “Based on work, humility, simplicity, love of what one knows how to do, the dedication of the players and the coaching staff, the compliance of the leaders, is this achievement,” said the sports leader who obtained the first star on the shield of The matador.
However, the festivities were short-lived. After the arrival of Independiente in Sucre, on the morning of December 14, in a caravan with a hundred cars carrying red and white flags from the airport to the city, a distance of 30 kilometers, and a massive reception, Montaño and his team returned to the I work in the afternoon to renew players and the coaching staff before the end of the year. After several days of insistence, through Zoom, the president of the club granted an interview to EL PAÍS. He wore a red Independiente sweater and with a little more calm due to all the movement of the management closure and the celebrations, he was able to talk about his time in charge of the team. “Nobody thought that we could be champions. At some point, they even told us that we were going to be fighting relegation, they never trusted in our ability as a club and as leaders to be able to carry this process forward ”, affirms the president of the club.
Montaño owns a pharmacy, runs a catering company with her family and, at the same time, also works as a municipal councilor for the city of Sucre. She remembers that since she was little she was taught to “work a lot”. “I’m used to it,” she says. Since she was a child, she helped her mother with the bakery they had and in a small restaurant that managed to serve between 100 and 120 people a day. She is a woman who likes challenges. She started four years ago at the club as treasurer, became the general secretary and assumed the presidency in 2020, the year they were promoted to the professional league. “It cost us a lot, we struggled for four years to try to get promoted, but it was not possible,” he recalls.
Before Montaño, there was Inés Quispe, who was the first Bolivian woman to preside over a soccer club in the country. The Alteña businesswoman was in charge of The Strongest team. Currently, along with the head of Independiente, Danitza Soliz also appears in a high command position, who is in charge of the Real Tomayapo club. Roxana Pomier, editor of the newspaper’s sports section Page Seven, affirms that entering a world exclusively for men is not easy, because they believe that it is a space reserved for them and that no one else has a place. And that is the “value” of Montaño. “His achievement serves to make visible the presence of women in this sport. She has shown that management can be done and that you can get a title like she has achieved it, with a payroll of $ 85,000, comparing it with other teams such as Bolívar, Always Ready or The Strongest, who spend that amount on one or two players . Montaño has given several lessons, ”says Pomier.
For the sports journalist and commentator for the Bolivian soccer league, Carla Saucedo, one of the strong pillars that has sustained Montaño’s success is having surrounded himself with people who know how to manage. The problems, according to Saucedo, come when there is a unilateral command and decision-making.
Montaño says there is no secret to the feat achieved. The only thing that took effect, as he explains, is the joint work, which involves the board of directors, coaching staff, technical commission, a decision-making model “for the good of the club” during the last two administrations. What does stand out is the economic part: “It is not easy to have a club with debts. In 2020 we had no debts, and in 2021 in the same way. If we have peace of mind economically, I think we will go forward with more patience, with measure, that is what the Independiente club has done and it is the most important thing ”.
Both Pomier and Saucedo agree that this successful joint effort will put this management to the test. This is due to the economic prize awarded by the South American Football Confederation (Conmebol) for qualifying for the Copa Libertadores, an amount of around three million dollars. However, Saucedo considers that the position of the head honcho of The matador he’s pretty consistent and smart about money management. “It seems to me responsible not to have access to impossible salaries and to have responsibility in the hiring that you are doing; and not give in to amounts that overvalue Bolivian soccer. Let us understand that the management he is doing is not to leave the club bankrupt in a couple of years, “adds Saucedo.
Montaño comes from a football lineage. Some of his “most beautiful” memories come from this sport with his father and brother, both former players, always accompanying them. He is optimistic about the year 2022 and the participation of the club that presides over the Copa Libertadores. He is even encouraged to say that he would like to coincide with the Argentine River Plate in the group stage and be able to see the Estadio Patria de Sucre full. Aware of his challenges, he will face a new management leading the “club of his loves” that gave him so many joys and “beautiful memories” alongside his family: “Some barriers that some men put us have been broken. It has been shown that a woman can be at the forefront and as women we have to be constant, persistent, full of faith, eager to improve and that is how we are going to achieve it. The most important thing is perseverance. If something hits us, we have to get up, it has to help us improve and strengthen ourselves more ”.
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