peter breslow

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It’s a place where girls can play volleyball. They can do ballet (of course).

But soccer is a no-no.

That’s the way it goes in Brazil, the country that famously loves soccer. There was once a legal ban — from 1941 to 1979 — noting that “women will not be allowed to practice sports which are considered incompatible to their feminine nature.”

That law is no longer on the books. So things have changed. Brazil has a women’s national team (although there’s only room for a few elite players). The Brazilian player Marta is an international superstar.

But a social ban is still in effect. A girl who wants to play soccer faces teasing and taunting.

“When I started playing I felt there was a lot of prejudice, they call me a macho girl, they called me ‘lesbian,’ ” says Lahis Maria Ramos Veras, 14, who goes by the nickname Lala. She’s got dirty blond highlights and wise eyes.

That’s not going to stop her or her teammate, Milena Medeiros dos Santos, who’s 16. “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t play soccer. I don’t just like it. I love it,” Milena says, flashing a mischievous smile.

Girls Of Brazil Face Slurs And Taunts If They Play Soccer: #15Girls

Photos: Lianne Milton for NPR