The body of Marbella Ibarra, a tireless promoter of women’s soccer in Mexico, has been found wrapped in plastic in Rosarito, a beach resort south of Tijuana, according to multiple reports.
Ibarra, 44, founded Mexico’s first women’s soccer team in Tijuana.
She disappeared in mid-September, said family members, who believed she had been kidnapped. Her body, recovered on Monday, showed signs of torture, authorities said. Her hands and feet had been tied and she had been severely beaten.
She is believed to have been killed on Friday, said police, who are treating the case as a murder. Tijuana has long been wracked by killings and kidnappings, much of it tied to the drug trade. July was the most violent month in the city’s history, with 251 documented homicides.
Investigators believe that her killing is unrelated to her role as coach and football promoter, police told the BBC.
Ibarra had recently been working on a foundation to help young female soccer players financially. Reports of her death provoked an outpouring of grief on social media.
Ibarra never played soccer herself but used her income from the beauty salon she ran to first fund an amateur women's team, Isamar FC. That was a controversial decision in a country where many people did not believe women should play sports.
Ibarra later started a professional team, Xolas de Tijuana, which first played across the border in the U.S. in the second-tier Women’s Premier Soccer League because there were no professional women's leagues in Mexico. However, Ibarra’s vision was finally realized in the spring of 2017 when owners of the country’s first-division men’s league threw their considerable weight behind the establishment of a 16-team women’s league, which began play that year. Ibarra was also involved in the league’s launch.