efe-epaNahuala, Guatemala

More than a score of indigenous women and girls who are members of the first female Guatemalan soccer team to suit up in their ancestral attire are striving to change preconceived notions in their homeland.

The mere act of playing soccer is a daring one in the conservative Mayan villages of that Central American country's interior, where the sport has typically been restricted to men.

Their decision to use their communities' traditional clothing as uniforms, meanwhile, is a bold expression of pride in a country where Indians - and indigenous women in particular - have suffered discrimination since the colonial era.

Miguel Perechu, the coach of the squad based in the remote southwestern indigenous village of Xejuyup, is well aware of indigenous women's treatment as second-class citizens.

"When my mom rides on the bus, even though she's older the people don't give up their seat when they see her with her dress," he told EFE while watching his players compete on the field.

The team's captain, 34-year-old Manuela Hilaria Chox, recalls that as a girl she played soccer with boys in her village and wanted to study to be a physical education teacher but that her parents were opposed to the idea.

Even so, she ended up studying education and today has a degree in pedagogy and education administration.

Chox said she was thrilled to see a crowd of families attending the game, noting that in the past there were no spectators.

She said it was around 10 years ago that she began noticing greater equality of opportunities for women in her village and now another step has been taken with the female soccer team.

The squad is the brainchild of Perechu, a physical education teacher who also coaches a male team that his father founded in 1982 and which also plays in ancestral clothing.

The goal is to preserve indigenous customs, but in the case of the female team the objective also is to make people aware of the athletic skills these women and girls possess.

Although most of the players already had been playing sports in their free time, they now have the opportunity to compete as members of a single team.

Perechu sought out the female players with the most potential, and with patience and determination - in some cases he needed to knock on doors to get parents' permission - he rounded his team into shape.

He says he is happy because his female squad will soon play in a tournament in which coaches from Guatemala's top female soccer league will be in attendance and select the most outstanding players.

Perechu said it was empowering for these athletes to achieve their sporting dreams and also a way to show their pride in their traditional attire.