Mar Ibarra, founder of Mexico's first pro women's soccer team, murdered near Tijuana

Marbella Ibarra was found in a blanket with her hands and feet tied.
Marbella Ibarra was found in a blanket with her hands and feet tied.

Marbella “Mar” Ibarra, the founder of Mexico’s first professional women’s soccer team, was found dead earlier this week in El Rosarito, Baja California, a beach resort town south of Tijuana.

Ibarra’s family reported her as missing Sept. 19. Her body was found Oct. 15 covered in a blanket with her hands and feet tied, according to El Sol de Tijuana.

There are few details to share about her death so far. The state’s attorney’s office said it does not believe her death had anything to do with her work in soccer.

Ibarra went from beauty salon to soccer team owner

Ibarra used profits from her beauty salon in Tijuana to found Isamar FC, an amateur women’s soccer team she also coached.

The team attracted top talent and early on put up a solid fight against Mexico’s U-20 Women’s World Cup team, losing 2-1. But it drew the attention of the national team trainer, Andrea Rodebaugh, who offered her services to the team.

The club formed an alliance with the professional men’s team, Xolos de Tijuana, and formed the country’s first professional women’s team, las Xolas de Tijuana.

las Xolas joined the United States’ semi-pro Women’s Premier Soccer league (WPSL) in 2015 since there was no competition at the time in Mexico.

Ibarra continued her work as a women’s soccer pioneer with the founding of a professional women’s league, Liga MX Femenil, which began last year.

Ibarra stepped down from her role with the league to “work on a long-sought project that with which she would achieve her professional growth,” according to La Silla Rota. The BBC reported she was working with a foundation to help young female players financially so they could have try-outs with teams other than their local ones.

Why was Ibarra killed?

Authorities do not yet know why Ibarra was targeted. It is being treated as a murder and an autopsy will be conducted.

Tijuana is well known for crime, from pickpockets to illegal drug trafficking and homicide. The United States Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security assessed Tijuana as a level 2 (exercise increased caution) for travelers based on crime threats.

Homicides in the five municipalities of Baja California, including Tijuana and Rosarito, saw a record increase in 2017, according to the bureau. As a whole there were 84 percent more than 2016 within the five municipalities.

And this year is even worse. While murder rates in Mexico are up 16 percent, a bulk of that comes in Baja California, according to an Associated Press report from late July. It had a 44 percent increase in murders in the first half of 2018 as compared to the first half of 2017.

That’s a rate of approximately 71 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. In comparison, according to the AP, Honduras and El Salvador have homicide rates of 60 per 100,000 and are considered some of the deadliest countries in the world.

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