Football is full of stories written off the back of sacrifice, perseverance and love for the game. However, each one contains certain details that make them unique and worth discovering. Maitte Zamorano’s case is no exception.
No relation to former Chile marksman Ivan Zamorano, this striker admires Lionel Messi but compares herself to Cristiano Ronaldo. Maitte came to prominence internationally last year in Bolivia, when she shone on loan at Mundo Futuro in her homeland and finished as top scorer in the Copa Libertadores 2013 with seven goals.
That competition in Foz de Iguazu, Brazil crowned a season in which she scored the amazing total of 92 goals. Keeping her feet firmly on the ground, however, she told FIFA.com: “I didn’t imagine it, nor did I look for it, but I believe it’s the fruit of many years of hard work.”
And Maitte, who has a degree in Physical Education and is currently studying Psychology, added: “I have been playing in the Primera for 15 years and, even though I was also involved in athletics, I've been concentrating solely on football since 2010.”
Asked how the achievement affected her career, Zamorano replied: “In Bolivia, little or hardly at all, although the press were interested because there aren’t many Bolivian sportsmen or women achieving such milestones outside our country.” And the 33-year-old, who makes a living by teaching football and futsal – among other activities – at a sporting institute, added: “At least it’s good for our sport, which continues to be only amateur here.”
The difference, she admits with some shyness, is the quality of the rivals. “It happened to me with the national team in the recent Odesur Games, when we were quickly knocked out after losing to Argentina (4-0) and Chile (2-0)," said Zamorano. "They marked me better and more closely. Someone told me that the girls I came up against in the Libertadores had spoken to their coaches about me and, well, I couldn’t even score a goal."
That was a rare blank for Zamorano, who has netted five times in six games for her country across two FIFA Women's World Cup™ qualifying campaigns. Asked to define herself as a striker, she replied in typically clinical fashion, as if faced with a goalscoring opprtunity. “Even though my idol is Messi, the strength and speed of my style is more comparable to Cristiano Ronaldo,” she said. “Like him, I can play on the flanks or in the middle, while I have the ability to finish with my left foot, my right or with my head.”
Maitte started out in futsal at the age of six, willed on by her parents and her four brothers, but developed her innate talents thanks to the track and field events in which she competed – the 100 metres and the long jump. A conflict with her first club meant she did not play football in 2002/03 or 2003/04, taking time off instead to concentrate on athletics. But in 2010, when a knee injury forced her to make a decision, she chose football.
Lost dream, new dream
Like any other footballer, there was a time when Zamorano dreamed of moving to Europe, and the player, who studies Brazil’s Marta, among others, in order to keep improving, created her own opportunity: “It was in 2004, during an athletics meeting in Germany. I had a trial at Frankfurt and even though I got good marks in terms of technique, the language was very difficult and I had to return. But at least I tried it."
These days, Maitte is no longer thinking about leaving Bolivia behind. Instead, her aims in the short term are to win the Liga de Santa Cruz and the Torneo Nacional in order to return to the Copa Libertadores, this time with modest Deportivo Ita, her team for a decade and a side she also now coaches. The rest of her time is consumed by her work as a teacher of girls and boys between the ages of five and 13. Building her own family, she insists, is something for after her retirement, in three or four years.
In sporting terms, one of her long-term objectives is to become coach of Bolivia, but all in good time. However, she admits having given up on another of her goals.
“I've stopped dreaming about playing at a World Cup,” she said. “But I hope to be at one with an U-17 or U-20 team soon. At those age groups, we aren’t as far away as we are with the senior side. My aspiration, then, is to develop players who can fulfill what was once my own dream.”