Paula Dapena, a women’s soccer player on a third-division Spanish team, simply wanted to send a message about domestic violence. She ended up getting global headlines, death threats — and more support than she expected.

Dapena, 24, was a little put off by the international outpouring of emotion in the wake of Diego Maradona’s death. The Argentine soccer legend, who died Nov. 25 at 60, was mourned around the globe, with his body lying in state as crowds gathered in Buenos Aires. The New Zealand rugby team laid a black jersey with the name “Maradona” and his No. 10 before a game against the Argentine rugby team. In Italy, the Naples city council approved a resolution to rename Maradona’s former club’s stadium after him.

Dapena, a midfielder for Viajes Interrias FF in Sanxenxo on the country’s northwestern coast, was surprised and disappointed after the death of Maradona, whose life included battles with substance abuse and at least one allegation of domestic violence.

“[The worldwide reaction] did not surprise me because of his past and his life with drugs; I was sincerely surprised that he had not died before. The drug issue is very complicated and ends many lives,” she said through an interpreter. “It bothers me a little that he died on the 25th of November, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.”

Dapena has not been a victim of domestic violence, although those close to her are survivors. She was upset that a man with his history dominated the airwaves on a day meant to draw attention to abuse against women.

Dapena neither planned to protest Maradona nor the seedier aspects of his off-field legacy. But before a Nov. 28 match against Deportivo de La Coruña, she was informed there would be a minute-long moment of silence to honor Maradona. Dapena considered the circumstances and before she left the locker room settled on a gesture that would make a statement and, she believed, be respectful to those who wanted to honor Maradona’s legacy.

When the referee called for the moment of silence, she sat down and faced away as her teammates bowed their heads to honor the soccer star.

Dapena’s teammates were shocked. Some chuckled; some were perplexed.

She told them what she would do in advance, but some didn’t expect her to follow through. At halftime, she said the opposing coach inquired about her display and agreed with her sentiment after she explained her reasoning. Her team backed the decision, too.

Dapena imagined her protest might circulate among her 2,700 Instagram followers. But by Sunday night, she and her teammates began to receive death and rape threats through Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

“The threats come to nothing because they are people behind a phone. They are anonymous, and they do not have the courage to show their face,” she said. “I stay with the messages that are supportive, that are double or triple more than the number of threats.”

Politician Ana Pontón spoke to Dapena on WhatsApp, offering her support and a meeting with members of the Spanish parliament. Recently, as she spoke to her sister on the street, Dapena said she was recognized by a woman who said she agreed with her protest.

That support has buttressed Dapena in a moment when she would like return to normal, to pursuing a master’s degree in physical education, playing through a schedule limited by the coronavirus, and a life before interviews and insults.

“I hope the fame goes down so … [I can] continue my life without people insulting me every day,” she said. “But I hope I can continue giving a voice to women who really need it and take advantage of the fact that I can do that right now.”

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