Spain starlet Sarriegi hits the ground running

21 Sep 2021
  • 20-year-old scored four against Faroes

  • Forward playing only her second game, first as starter

  • Discusses current form, the national team and World Cup qualifiers

After scoring four goals on her full debut, in only her second appearance for the Spanish national team, messages came flooding in to congratulate Amaiur Sarriegi. In an interview with FIFA.com, the Real Sociedad striker said with a smile: “I haven’t tried to count them, but there are still loads I haven’t even replied to yet.” The Spanish hotshot bagged four in a 10-goal rout of the Faroe Islands, helping her country get off to a flying start in their qualifying campaign for the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia/New Zealand 2023™. “The messages from my family and friends pleased me the most, but it was a pleasure to read all of them. Everyone said I deserved it for all the hard work I’ve put in.” The 20-year-old’s previous appearance for La Roja came in her debut last June, when she came off the bench for the last nine minutes of a friendly against Belgium.

Fast and comfortable on the ball, Sarriegi can play anywhere across the front three. When asked to choose her favourite goals on the night, she focused on two in particular. “For the first goal, which came from a cross, I was quite far out, so I had to adjust my technique, using my body and neck to generate the power needed to beat the goalkeeper. I also enjoyed the fourth goal, because I played a lovely one-two with Alexia [Putella], who returned a great ball to play me in so I could finish off the move,” said the San Sebastian-born attacker. She also knows exactly what she will do with the match ball: “I’ll have to let the air out before I take it on the plane, but when I’ve blown it back up again, I’ll get my team-mates to sign it and I’ll put it in a display cabinet at home.”

Football: an undying passion

It all started when she was just a little girl, asking for footballs as gifts so that she could have a kick-about with her brothers. It may have taken her many years to find her shooting boots on the pitch, but she caught the eye during her 13-month spell at Athletic Club in the Spanish Second Division, before netting 28 in 15 games for Real Sociedad in la Primera Iberdrola — form which has earnt her a place in La Roja. But how does she deal with all these changes? Showing a level of maturity beyond her years, Sarriegi said: “Everything happened so quickly, but football mirrors life. It can change you in a year, a month or even a day. I managed to adapt. At the end of the day, it’s a case of gaining knowledge and growing as a person and a footballer. You must take things as they come. You must enjoy the moment.”

Spain's Amaiur Sarriegi is seen in action against Faroe Islands during their FIFA Women World Cup qualifying match. Photo: courtesy of RFEF

Despite her dazzling display against the Faroe Islands, her feet are still firmly planted on the ground when she thinks about her future with Spain: “I’m delighted, you don’t score four goals every game, but I feel I’ve played very well. I understand my team-mates better now; I barely knew them when I got my last call-up. If I keep adapting my game, I’ll become a better player for the national side.” She also refuses to be labelled: “Just because I scored four goals doesn’t make me the star player. What’s important is that I’m being recognised, especially by young girls. Perhaps I’m someone they look up to, which is always a good thing; it will help women’s football, and teams and clubs will reach the next level.”

The Real Sociedad star had not found a clear role model until her attention turned towards Irene Paredes: “I like how she leads the team, the way she plays the game and lives the matches she’s involved in. Football should be played with this level of passion and energy. We were in the pre-match meeting together. She trains well and works hard on her game. She sets an example for me and everyone else.” But Sarriegi, an aspiring primary school teacher, is an example to follow herself, juggling football with her studies: “I do my coursework online and know how to manage my time. As well as playing, young girls should find something else they like, because even though women’s football is growing, and wages [in the women’s game] are increasing, they’ll probably need to take up something else when they stop playing.”

Spain national team is seen prior the match against against Faroe Islands during FIFA Women World Cup qualifying campaign. Photo: courtesy of RFEF

Hungary today, the World Cup tomorrow

Spain and Sarriegi travel to Hungary for their second World Cup qualifier this Tuesday, 21 September. “There’s no such thing as an easy game, we’re talking about a World Cup qualifier. Before the game the other day, people may have said it was an easier match, but if you don’t start well, anything can happen. So you must analyse each opponent diligently and work out how to beat them.” However, she does recognise that Spain are an emerging force: “We’ve got some of the best players in the world and the team is getting ever closer to reaching the top. Doing my bit to help Spain compete against the best teams in the world is an honour and a privilege.” Her ultimate goal is to play at the next World Cup: “When every young girl first kicks a ball, they dream about playing in packed stadiums, enjoying those moments and matches. Representing my country and knowing that everyone’s watching me, and playing against the best teams, is one of the best feelings in the world.”