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Spanish football players union AFE has voted to accept women members, joining some 30 other unions affiliated to FIFPro.

It is an important step for women’s football in a country which has untapped potential, according to Caroline Jonsson, chairman of the FIFPro women’s football committee.

“Spain potentially could have one of the best women’s leagues in the world,” Jonsson, a former women's World Cup finalist for Sweden, said. “They are behind Germany, France and England but there are a lot of positive moves like this one.”

Other FIFPro members such as Bulgaria’s ABF plan to change their statutes to welcome women players by the end of the year. FIFPro has invited female footballers who cannot yet join national unions to become members of the international union.

At its assembly in Valencia, AFE unanimously approved a proposal for female players to become members.

"We were without one half of Spanish football and now we have them with us," AFE president Luis Rubiales said.

It means “we are getting closer to ending the discrimination women footballers suffer,” Fe Robles, who was appointed head of AFE's female player committee, said. Robles has previously campaigned for women’s football in Spain to receive a share of the country's weekly football pools game.

In the photo above, Luis Rubiales puts his arm around Fe Robles in Valencia. Below, two delegates celebrate the vote to include women players in AFE.

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Female players will benefit from the know-how of player unions, Jonsson said.

“Women footballers have the same issues, the same problems as men –- they even have it harder,” Jonsson said. “We are behind the men’s game on minimum contract requirements and insurance.”

In Brazil, for example, Aline Pellegrino, the former captain of the women’s national team and an Olympic silver medallist, could not open a bank account because she did not have an official employment contract for most of her 16 years as a player.

In Bulgaria, where all women players are amateurs, ABF has begun including a category for girls in a regular children’s tournament it organizes. Beroe Stara Zagora was the winner of the first competition for girls in Plovdiv.

“Women’s football is not popular in Bulgaria so we thought we should start somewhere,” Mila Hristova, Vice-President of the ABF, said. “This is not just a one off event. We will carry on with this over the coming months and years.”

ABF also recently held its first awards for women players. Silvia Radoyska, an amateur player at the National Sports Academy, was voted player of the season. Veronika Gotseva and Nina Georgieva were also recognized.

“We have created the first three women stars in Bulgarian football," Hristova said.

Pictured below, from left to right, Bulgarian footballers Veronika Gotseva, Silvia Radoyska and Nina Georgieva.

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