Women’s Football in São José dos Campos: a report on the research process for the itinerant exhibition “COUNTER-ATTACK!”

The starting point for the research was the collection of the São José Sports Museum [1]. Since it was a survey that would serve as the basis for the COUNTER-ATTACK! The Women of Football about football in the city, photographs were chosen as a priority source to compose the narrative. The research showed that women have been on the move since 1936, actively participating in the Open Indoor Games. In the 1940s, in São José, they excelled in tennis, volleyball and basketball.  

The only photographic record in the Sports Museum’s collection of women playing football during the period of the ban (1941-1979) is of workers posing next to members of the board of the Companhia Rhodosá de Rayon factory and the player Julinho Botelho, famous for having played at Portuguesa de Desportos, Fiorentina (Italy) and Palmeiras. About the context of this photo, it is known that it took place on a civic holiday and that, after the registration, Rodhosá Atlético Clube (RAC) and Taubaté Esporte Clube played [2]. There is no mention of the women’s game, a clear erasure of this memory. 

Workers from Companhia Rhodosá put on a football "demonstration", posing alongside members of the factory's management and the famous player Julinho Botelho, a champion and idol for Portuguesa de Desportos, Fiorentina (Italy) and Palmeiras. São José dos Campos/SP, 1950’s. Photo: Rights reserved.

It’s important to note that, on the sports field, Esporte Clube São José was the city’s main team and the local derby is still played against Burro da Central. So this was no ordinary fight. The hosts, RAC, joined the Paulista Football Federation in the year it was founded, 1948. The relationship between football and the factory in São José dos Campos has always been very close. The Municipal Football League, created in 1955, had four of the seven founding teams from manufacturing backgrounds: Cerâmica Weiss, Cerâmica Becker, Tecelagem Parahyba and Rhodosá Atlético Clube [3].  

The RAC didn’t have a women’s team. That record was made as a friendly demonstration. Regardless of the prohibitions imposed on women, they continued to dribble them in other fields. Jogos Abertos do Interior (in a free translation, “The Countryside’s Open Games”) continue to be the most important competition on the region’s sports calendar, bringing together athletes from various disciplines, such as athletics and swimming. In the Sports Museum’s collection, the photographs are available digitally, organized by decades, and can be filtered by sport.  

In the 1981-1990 and 1991-2000 intervals, there are ten and three photographs, respectively. Although it’s a fairly limited collection, it was these images that served as the basis for the composition of the local module of COUNTER-ATTACK! From them, it was possible to promote an important action of recognition of the trajectory of the women who began to compete in tournaments between neighborhoods and projected leaders in the practice of football, in refereeing, in management.  

The traveling exhibition was produced in the context of the Women’s World Cup (2023). This process has witnessed the synergy of characters who are interested in telling their stories in the first person and to a wider audience. A common thread during the interviews for COUNTER-ATTACK! in São José was the exponential growth given to this research due to the movement for the visibility of women’s football. The fact that it was a partnership with the Football Museum, which is a benchmark, made a big difference.  

In the conversation between the press, iconography and orality, Zezinho Friggi, creator of the Sports Museum, was a key player, introducing Solange Gouvea, who played for Raios de Sol and was state champion in the 2nd division and metropolitan futsal champion, top scorer in several tournaments, and the city’s first female football referee. Solange played for São José’s first “Team”, ASSEM, SENAT and other teams from various cities in the Paraíba Valley. It was she who “summoned” the team to take the goal kick, in other words, to restart the game of historical narrative.  

In the 1980s, the selection of the best players led to the first formation of the São José Women’s team, whose base was Raios de Sol and whose coach was Selma Profício. From this squad, two players went on to play for the Brazilian national team, Meire and Valéria Bonifácio, and others, such as Luciana Galvão, went on to play for clubs such as Swift, Marvel, Saad, Santos and Portuguesa.  

The São José dos Campos Sports Museum took part in the Spring of Museums, promoted by IBRAM in 2011, whose theme was: “Mulheres, Museus e Memória” (“Women, Museums and Memory”), at the time, one of the interviewees was from football: Selma Profício. In her interview of just over six minutes, she provided important information that, at the height of São José’s women’s football, rewound the narrative to more than two decades, presenting other memories and victories, of Raios de Sol and two dozen other teams that, in the 1980s, literally raised the dust in the fields of the city, Vale do Paraíba, Litoral Norte (the North Coast of the State of São Paulo) and Greater São Paulo.  

It is important to clarify that São José Women’s Club is not part of São José Esporte Clube. The team has been run by the local government since 2001. It plays in Regional Games and Open Indoor Games. In 2010, it was the vice-champion in the Paulista Championship. In the following years, he won the Copa do Brasil (2012 and 2013), the Campeonato Paulista (2012, 2014 and 2015), became a three-time Libertadores champion (2011, 2013 and 2014) and won the International Club Tournament (2014).  

COUNTER-ATTACK! in São José dos Campos allowed other women to dribble beyond the exhibition itself. The photograph of the Rays of the Sun in the blue and yellow uniform was then the only one among the 13 belonging to the Sports Museum. It was kindly provided by Roziani de Fátima Nunes Alves (Rozi). The inclusion of these and other records in the exhibition itinerary triggered important exercises in remembering this history.  

Raios de Sol Team, 1990s, São José dos Campos/SP. Standing up: Constantino, Solange, Cristina Piorino, Meire, Rose, Chica and Selma (coach). Crouching: Cristina, Norma, Luciana, Alessandra and Marilú. Photo: Rights reserved.

In them, moments are remembered; territories are revisited; objects are recovered. It’s a discovery of the meanings and functions of items such as banners, shirts, medals, trophies, certificates, newspaper clippings, K7 tapes, photographs; until then inert, once illuminated, they start to energize memory and orality.  

It is these variations that define the position of the narrators in relation to the story of which they are a part. At first, phrasal topics and a crystallized tone of relative relevance which turn into an exercise in detailing episodes. Speed is accelerated and space is shortened in the coming and going of information, with the use of social networks. In this way, players from Caçapava, Campos do Jordão and other regions have connected and produced new storylines, some of which have been shared with us.  

Still on the subject of these chapters to be (re)written, in the production of COUNTER-ATTACK! it emerged that, in the 1980s and 1990s, different characters played a leading role in the attempt to have a women’s team representing the municipality of São José with a minimum of back-up for the girls. In this regard, former coach Luís Bento (Bronca) pointed out that it was an ephemeral action and that the team at the time linked to the São José Esporte Clube was a reflection of a time when a woman took over the management of the club: Lindonice de Brito, who was located during the research and also contributed to the writing of this history of women’s football in São José.  


With the advent of digital cameras and the ease with which content can be produced and shared, the production of memories in a virtual environment is a phenomenon that allows records [4] of the most diverse moves to be documented.  

The generation of Raios de Sol and the first women to wear the São José shirt relied on analog records made by family and friends. There are few press records, which gain meaning and significance from qualified listening.  

Both in the collection of sources and in the production of the captions that culminated in the local exhibition in São José, the validation of texts, corrections and additional information are still in the process of building this story that reveals a vast repertoire of women’s resistance and countless stories that are yet to come to light.  

The writing of this text makes any presentation of the results inconclusive, because every day a new protagonist joins this writing process in which the historian works as a co-author.  

For these pioneers, football constitutes a cultural heritage, interlinking life experiences; it is a shared history that is still in the process of being built and whose (re)writing is necessary. There’s still a lot to play for, and the ball will keep rolling.  


[1] Municipal Law No. 5445/99, creating the São José dos Campos Sports Museum, an entity subordinated to the City Hall’s Sports and Leisure Department. The São José dos Campos Sports Museum is an exhibition and visitor center that opened on 07/30/1999. In September 2017, it moved to the Martins Pereira Municipal Stadium. 

[2] Refer to: Jornal O Correio Joseense (newspaper), Sep 07, 1956. 

[3] Rodhosá Atlético Clube was amateur champion in 1959 and 1960. In 1965, he played in the professional Paulista Championship in the Fourth Division, now known as Série B. 

[4] Since 2001, the Sports Museum’s collection has grown. From 192 photographs between 2001 and 2011 to 711 between 2011 and 2020. The majority of this material is produced for the Open Indoor Games, Regional Games and other tournaments promoted or in which the Sports Department participates. For this purpose, it has a specific professional. 


PORTELLI, Alessandro. Tentando aprender um pouquinho: algumas reflexões sobre a ética na História Oral. Projeto História – Revista do Programa de Estudos Pós-Graduados de História, São Paulo, v. 15, p. 13-49, 2012. 

ROQUE, Zuleika Stefânia Sabino. A cidade, o futebol e o trabalho: memórias sobre o futebol de fábrica São José dos Campos 1920-2010. 2012. 253 f. Tese (Doutorado em História) — Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo, São Paulo, 2012. 

ROQUE, Zuleika Stefânia Sabino; FRAGA, Estefânia Knotz Canguçú; ZANETTI, Valéria. O campo das mulheres: pequeno ensaio sobre o futebol feminino em São José dos Campos. In: GUIMARÃES, Antônio Carlos. São José dos Campos: cotidiano, gênero e representação. São José dos Campos: UNIVAP, 2014. p. 175-187. 

VIEIRA, Enny Moraes; ROQUE, Zuleika Stefânia Sabino Roque. Do escanteio para o meio da área: em busca da visibilidade e respeito ao futebol feminino brasileiro. In: MARTA, Felipe Eduardo Ferreira; MUSSI, Leila Maria Prates Teixeira; CARDOSO, Berta Leni Costa (org.). História do esporte: cultura, política, gênero e economia. Goiânia: Kelpes, 2017. p. 65-84. Coleção MovimentAção: debates e propostas. v. 3. 

Zuleika Stefânia Sabino Roque
A researcher on women’s football in São José dos Campos, she holds a Master’s and Doctorate in History from Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo). 

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