FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup

Gisela Robledo: more than a commercial success

Gisela Robledo of Colombia celebrates after scoring
© Getty Images
  • Gisela Robledo has Colombia dreaming of a Costa Rica/Panama 2020 place
  • The 16-year-old starred in an commercial alongside global mega-stars
  • She discusses how the entire Colombia squad became hoarse

How good does a 16-year-old have to be to star alongside Lionel Messi, Michael Jordan, Serena Williams and Usain Bolt in a commercial? Well, as good as Colombian gem Gisela Robledo is the answer.

"As soon as I signed my contract with the brand, I was told about the idea for the advert, but nothing compares to actually being there, next to stars like them," Robledo told FIFA.com.

The commercial, which was filmed over a week in Slovenia, aired in February when the talented attacking midfielder was already in Bogota on international duty, preparing for the South American U-20 Women's Championship in Argentina, whose final phase would be suspended because of the coronavirus.

"One day I came back from training and had hundreds of messages on my phone," Robledo said. "Everyone had seen it and was congratulating me! My team-mates were ribbing me, saying, 'This is huge – you in an advert with Messi!' That’s when I began to realise its impact."

However, sudden fame did not cause Robledo to lose her focus. Indeed, she lived up to expectations in South American qualifying for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Costa Rica/Panama 2020™ by scoring five goals to help Colombia reach the final phase, which will take place later this year and decide the region’s two representatives at the finals.

"We achieved the first goal we’d set ourselves in Argentina, but we need to improve to reach the World Cup," Robledo said. "If there's one thing we learned, it's that we have to treat each game as a final, otherwise we can expect to suffer again."

The player is referring to the agonizing conclusion to Group A. After playing their four fixtures, Colombia needed Argentina not to beat Bolivia in their last game if they were to sneak into the final phase. The hosts were firm favourites, with their opponents having hitherto failed to score a goal or point. Yet the match ended 1-1, allowing Las Cafeteras to celebrate.

"When Argentina took an early lead, some of the team thought we were as good as gone, but I’m a firm believer in God and never lost faith," said Robledo. "Bolivia’s equaliser right on half-time gave us encouragement, and that's when we started playing our part.

"We cheered on the Bolivians all the second half, and I think it helped them in the end, when their legs were gone. After the game they thanked us and said we deserved to go through. We were all hoarse by the time we got back to the hotel, but so happy!"

Gisela Robledo #7 of Colombia celebrates a scored goal 
© Getty Images

For all that, football is about much more than faith for Gisela. From when she started playing as a four-year-old in Guacari, the one thing she has always shown is resilience.

"In our neighbourhood there was always a kickabout happening and I loved it, even though my mom didn't want me to play," she explained. "She told me it was a boys' sport and to choose another one… But my brother was impressed with how well I played and he brought me to futsal when I was five."

And so, alternating between the streets, fields and wooden indoor surfaces, Robledo learned how to run with the ball at her feet, deal with bigger opponents and shoot when the opportunity presented itself. Then, aged 11, she began 11-a-side football an hour from her home. By that point, she had the full support of her mother as well as an aunt, who used to “buy me football boots and give me the fare to go to training”.

Robledo was just 14 when first called up to the national youth teams and she wasted no time in establishing herself in the U-17 squad that finished runners-up at the South American Championship in 2018. She lived up to expectations later that year at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup™ in Uruguay, where she scored both of her side’s goals at the tournament and was named player of the match against subsequent champions Spain.

Although Colombia did not survive the group stage in Uruguay, the tournament served to form the nucleus of the U-20 team currently in contention for a place at this year’s World Cup in the age category.

Robledo said: "That experience was useful, but to qualify for the World Cup, we must do exactly what the coach asks of us: to not be afraid to get on the ball, and to make our opponents run, regardless of whether it’s Brazil or any team. That’s what we’ll try to do."

Did you know?

  • Robledo has been playing for America de Cali since 2019, the year the club won their national league and finished third in the Copa Libertadores Femenina.
  • The midfielder scored six goals in the latter competition, two of them in the match for third place.
  • In November, she made her senior national team debut in a friendly against Argentina.
Gisela Robledo of Colombia is awarded Player of the Match 
© Getty Images

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