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Pioneer of Women’s Soccer in Mexico Is Found Dead

MEXICO CITY — Marbella Ibarra, a coach who pioneered the development of women’s soccer in Mexico, was found beaten to death this week, a month after she went missing from her home in the border city of Tijuana.

From her start as a star forward at the Autonomous University of Baja California, Ms. Ibarra dedicated her career to training female players. She was the driving force behind Mexico’s first professional women’s team, persuading Club Tijuana to form a female squad four years ago.

Ms. Ibarra, who was 46, was buried on Thursday. Her body, covered with a blanket, was discovered Sunday in Rosarito, a resort town to the south of Tijuana. Her hands and feet had been tied, and she had been brutally beaten around the face and neck, said José Manuel Yépiz, a spokesman for the Baja California state attorney general’s office, on Thursday.

Mr. Yépiz said that Ms. Ibarra’s family had reported her missing on Sept. 18. He said that investigators had not established the circumstances of her disappearance or a motive for her killing, but he added that her sports career was not believed to be related to her murder.

News of Ms. Ibarra’s death prompted an outpouring of grief from players she had mentored, some of whom had gone on to play in Mexico’s two-year-old professional women’s league, known as the Liga MX Feminil.

“You were, are and will be the best coach I ever had,” wrote Carolina Jaramillo, a forward on the Tigres UANL team and a member of Mexico’s national team, on Twitter. “Rest in peace, I love you Mar.”

“Save a little piece of heaven for me,” wrote Inglis Hernandez, a midfielder on the Tijuana women’s team Ms. Ibarra helped found. “Some day we’ll lift this cup again together.”

Rafael González Martínez, the sports editor at Zeta, a weekly newspaper in Tijuana, said Ms. Ibarra was known for her dedication to her players.

“She was always somebody who wanted to help those who had less,” he said. “She was always attentive, always supportive — with lunch, uniforms, cleats, balls. She was very passionate for her sport.”

Ms. Ibarra first drew attention as a player on her college team in Tijuana, Mr. González said. She studied law, and after graduating, she stayed at the university as an assistant coach and then moved up to head coach.

She founded her own amateur team, Isamar FC, named after her family-owned beauty salon, which sponsored the team. It was there that she began to form a squad of young players, who caught the attention of the coach of the national under-20 team.

But she had her sights set on creating a professional league. In 2014, she persuaded the Club Tijuana men’s team, the Xoloitzcuintles, to establish a professional women’s team, known as Las Xolos.

Coached by Ms. Ibarra, the Xolos played for one year with the Women’s Premier Soccer League in the United States. She continued to coach the Xolos until last year, when she left the team just as the Mexican Federation created the Liga MX Feminil.

After that, Ms. Ibarra dedicated her time to her foundation, Ellas Juegan, or “The Girls Play,” which provides support for young women players.

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