This has been no ordinary year for Costa Rica so far. Fresh from hosting the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in March and April, the country remained firmly in the global limelight when the world’s top national teams convened at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, with Los Ticos stunning everyone by going all the way to the quarter-finals.
The spotlight has stayed on Costa Rican football at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014, and while results have not gone Las Ticas way so far, there can be no doubting the determination of the players to build a brighter future for women’s football back home.
Three of them – Maria Paula Coto, Gloriana Villalobos and Melissa Herrera, respectively known as Paula, Glori and Ficha to their team-mates – spoke to FIFA.com about that goal and how the men’s ground-breaking campaign at Brazil 2014 is inspiring them to strive for more.
“The Costa Rica team did something really beautiful at Brazil 2014,” said striker Herrera. “I got emotional about it because I’d never seen anything like it before me. I wasn’t born when Italy 1990 happened, and what our national team achieved was truly unforgettable.”
The success enjoyed by Jorge Luis Pinto’s side has increased the pressure on Herrera and her team-mates to achieve results, though they have yet to come their way at Canada 2014, with defeats to France and Paraguay leaving Las Ticas with only a slim chance of qualifying for the knockout rounds ahead of their final Group D match against New Zealand.
Reflecting on those growing expectations, Herrera said: “We have to know how to deal with that because the situation is different. Women’s football in Costa Rica has not had much support yet. It’s not like the USA, where there are professional leagues.”
The fact that Herrera honed her electric pace on the athletics track and not in youth team or academy is in an indication of the work that still needs to be done to raise the standard of Costa Rican women’s football.
Explaining how she found her way into the game, the smiling Herrera said: “I was starting out as an athlete and I’d won a lot of medals already. Then I saw that the national team were holding trials and I told my mother that I wanted to go. She came with me and I was selected for a training camp in San Jose. I have to say, I’ve learned how to run fast and I still consider myself a sprinter. It’s in my blood.”
Like Herrera, both Villalobos and Coto have starring roles in the side. Despite being only 14 and 15 years old respectively, they are among its most experienced players, having also formed part of the Costa Rica team that hosted the recent U-17 world finals.
“It was tough for me to start with because the girls were very big,” said Paula, pointing to the challenges she has faced. “All the same, I saw that even though they were physically stronger, I had to give as good as I got and fight for my dream.”
Though the intrepid Costa Ricans still have some way to go before they can compete on an even footing with the world’s top teams, the achievements of their fellow countrymen in Brazil a few short weeks ago have shown what can be done.
“Costa Rica is a small country, but size doesn’t matter when you dream big, as the men proved at Brazil 2014,” said a defiant Villalobos. “Nobody gave them a chance, but they chased their dream and made it a reality.”
Wrapping things up, she added: “We are going to do our very best to make history, just like the men’s team did. And we’re also going to do our bit to support the development of women’s football, to make sure it grows and gets more backing.”