The region of Galicia in the north-west of Spain has a long tradition of emigration. Indeed, it is estimated that since the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939, millions have left Galicia’s shores either to start a new life in the Americas or to make a living in other European countries such as Switzerland, Germany and France.
Among their number is Santiago de Compostela native, Veronica Boquete. The 24-year-old’s passion for the beautiful game has taken her around the world and seen her achieve her goal of becoming a professional footballer, something that seemed a mere pipedream as a child.
It is a journey that has taken her to destinations as diverse as Zaragoza, Barcelona, Rochester (New York), Chicago, Philadelphia, Voronezh (Russia) and Tyreso (Sweden). This year the Spain striker will share a dressing room and team-talks with Brazil ace and five-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Marta, as the pair try to help Tyreso FF become Swedish champions.
“Marta was, and still is, my role model," Boquete told FIFA.com. "To be training everyday and playing alongside her… I just can’t believe it. On top of that we’re now friends – the similarities in our respective languages helps – we understand each other well on the pitch. Moreover, off the pitch we get on great.
“I feel very comfortable in the team, who have been extremely welcoming from the first day. They’re an ambitious club and one of the favourites to win the league. We’ve some great players, big-name stars, but it’s about more than just them. The team needs playing time as there are many new faces. Each match will be like a final.”
Marta was, and still is, my role model. To be training everyday and playing alongside her… I just can’t believe it.
Although struggling to get to grips with Swedish, the player gets by with English, which she perfected during three seasons competing in North America. In her last stint there, with Philadelphia Independence, Boquete made such an impact that she was voted 2011 Most Valued Player (MVP) in the Women’s Professional Soccer league. After the suspension of the WPS, Boquete opted for a short stint with Russian side Energiya Voronezh, who she represented in the current edition of the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
“The suspension of the American league was a body blow," she said. "I was looking forward to returning there not only to consolidate my position after winning the MVP award, but most of all to win the league. Above and beyond my personal disappointment, the suspension represents a major blow globally. For the best league in the world not to continue and to have those kind of problems is very bad for women’s football. Hopefully it will return and be even stronger.
“After that, I had difficulty deciding what to do next. Today I’m very happy in Sweden, where the quality of life is very good. It’s a very different place to Russia, although all these experiences are making me grow as a person and a player,” added Boquete, who admitted she always misses her family, friends and the beaches of Galicia no matter where she goes.
Such has been Boquete's progress than even Marta has spoken of her vast potential. “It’s a pleasure to be her team-mate," said the Brazilian. "She is great at reading the play, always knows what to do and looks for the right pass at just the right time. She’s top quality and if she continues at this rate, she could end up competing for the World Player of the Year.” Boquete smiled and blushed a little, before replying: “I appreciate her saying that, but I wouldn’t even dream of something like that.”
Boquete eyes EURO, breaking ground
Boquete, who is already making plans to become a coach when her playing days are over, is also a key member of the senior national side, with whom she is currently battling to qualify for the 2013 UEFA Women’s EURO in Sweden.
“That’s the goal for this year and we’ve got a very good chance," she said. "We’re going to be there – we have to be there! I think it’s an obligation now for the women’s national team. It would be a vitally important step. At an individual level, it’s very satisfying to play at major events like these, and I’ve missed out on a lot of them already. It’s my turn now.”
Indeed the last major event Boquete enjoyed with La Roja was the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Thailand 2004: “A lot of us from that group are here [with the senior team] now. At U-17 and U-19 level we’re very good. So if there’s good quality in the underage sides, why isn’t that reflected in the senior team? We’re very close to getting there and are on the right road. We’re capable of giving people a lot to cheer about.”
Boquete then offered her analysis of the lack of continuity in Spanish women’s football: “A time comes when women players have to choose between football and [the demands of] life, because they’re unable to combine both. Consequently, this impacts on the quality of the game here.
“There’s a lot of talk about professionalism in the women’s game but I believe we have several other steps to take before getting there. We talk about reaching the summit [of the game], but we can’t expect to just suddenly get there. We need to change education a great deal. We live in a macho country and that conditions us. That’s what has to change, so that one day we really do have equality and it becomes a non-issue.”
In this regard, Boquete has done laudable work, overcoming her share of discrimination to become a role model for others in the game and even set up her own football clinic. “It’s very satisfying and a source of pride," she said. "It’s also another motivating factor to keep going forward."