It was a day like any other when Dayana Cazares met her idol Maribel Dominguez. The mere mention of that name transports the young Mexican back to the moment her childhood dream came true. Her smile gives her away: "Leonardo helped me meet her. We were at training. He arrived with Maribel and said to her: 'Look, this is the girl I was telling you about.' And that's how we started talking."
Cazares has spoken to 'Marigol', the first big star in Mexican women's football, several times since then, although she has not yet asked for a selfie. "I'm more the kind of person to experience the moment," she told FIFA.com, laughing. The central midfielder speaks with genuine enthusiasm about her heroine: "I love her leadership, her commitment out on the pitch, the way she plays… it's an honour to watch her play. Before coming here she told me we were going to do great things. She told me to just have fun and do what I do best."
And that is precisely what Cazares is doing. She is one of the standout players of a Mexican side that progressed to the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup 2016 as group winners. Cazares has demonstrated her vision and speed in Jordan, and has even scored, before celebrating in customary fashion: "I always think about my family. I'm very passionate… I almost cried!"
She misses her family, even if they are forever ingrained in her heart… and on her skin. "This is the infinity symbol," she said, pointing to a tattoo on her right forearm. "Here I've got the initials of my parents and my grandmother." On the back of her hand a lion stands as a reminder of her mother, Karina, with whom she has a very special relationship. "I even feel like she's here with me," Cazares said. Although a great distance separates them, the two are in constant contact. "She can't even sleep now, and sends me messages of encouragement telling me she's going to watch me on TV," she said.
I love her leadership, her commitment out on the pitch, the way she plays… it's an honour to watch her play.
It was her mother who, seeing her daughter with a ball at her feet for the first time at the age of four, knew she was born to play the game. "She told me that when she saw me playing with some little boys she said to herself, 'Where did this girl come from?'" Cazares explained.
Her grandmother Gregoria is the other person chiefly responsible for Cazares being where she is today. In 2014 the national team organised a scouting trip to Toluca, a city just 70 kilometres away from Mexico City. Cazares was eager to go, but money was scarce at home. "My grandmother, who'd never seen me play, said to my mum: 'Take this money and take her there. I'm confident she's going to make it,'" she said. Just a few months later Cazares was on the other side of the world, playing at the Girls' Youth Olympic Football Tournament in Nanjing.
The memories of that competition are still fresh in Cazares' mind, especially the semi-final against Venezuela. La Vinotinto took Mexico by surprise by scoring with virtually their first attack, but Cazares soon equalised. "A team-mate played a ball for me into space, I dribbled at speed, hit it low and scored," she recalled. Her smile broadens despite the bittersweet nature of the memory of a match the South Americans won on penalties. "We always say we want revenge for what happened in China," she said. And on Wednesday they will have the chance to get it.
Many of the players from that encounter will feature on either side as the teams eye passage to the semi-finals. "We'll have to give it everything because it won't be easy," Cazares said. Her caution comes despite the fact Mexico recently beat Venezuela twice, recording 7-1 and 3-1 victories. "But they didn't have all the players they have here," she said. A certain Deyna Castellanos is one such player. "She's good," Cazares admitted of Venezuela's star. "But I've got total faith in our defenders."
Cazares revealed that in her first meeting with 'Marigol', her idol told her: "You have to put in a lot of effort". And that is exactly what the midfielder plans to do in order to exact the desired revenge.