- Tigres won the Liga MX Femenil for the third time in December
- Katty Martinez was instrumental in their victorious campaign
- “I told myself that the final was in the bag,” she said
There was a distinct sense of déjà vu for all those involved in the Liga MX Femenil final last month: Tigres were on the verge of celebrating victory over old rivals Monterrey, when Las Rayadas scored deep into stoppage-time to take the game to penalties.
It was Annia Mejia who pounced in the 93rd minute for Monterrey to make it 1-1 on aggregate and guarantee a shootout in the 2020 Torneo Guard1anes, mirroring the 2018 Clausura Championship, where there was a similarly dramatic conclusion to the two-legged final.
“Looking back at the match, I think that I could have intercepted the ball just as their last move began,” Tigres forward Katty Martinez told FIFA.com. “However, there are no what ifs in football and what happened was tough to take. But I told myself that it was OK, that we had it in the bag, and that nothing bad would happen. We’d done it once before and we were going to do it again.”
“I’d been practising penalties all season, and in the days running up to the game I’d had even more time to practise. I remember thinking that, at that moment, the fact I’d finished as top goalscorer in the league didn’t matter, that it was simply time to cap off everything that I’d shown during the season.”
As she strode towards the spot, Martinez had the opportunity to demonstrate one of her greatest strengths: stepping up and delivering at crucial, high-pressure moments.
“I quite like taking the first one to give the players after me a confidence boost,” she said. “In the previous final, I’d put my name down for the fifth penalty, but I didn’t even get to take it, so now I really wanted to do it.”
Martinez remained calm and slotted the ball home. A few minutes later, Tigres would emerge triumphant again and celebrate their third Liga MX Femenil title in six seasons.
“I always believed Tigres would be competing for honours,” said the energetic attacker. “When they signed me and told me who was going to be playing, it was a very easy decision when I thought about performing alongside footballers of such quality and experience. That serious approach right from the start was what made them different from all the other teams.”
Martinez may only be 22, but she has already achieved a significant amount in her career. She has three league winners’ medals in her display cabinet, she was the leading goalscorer in the most recent campaign, and she has already received a number of caps for the Mexican women’s national team.
Despite this success, she has a tendency to look at herself with a critical eye, aware that she still has a lot of potential to fulfil and that there is room for improvement in her game.
“Physically speaking, I’d like to make a significant change,” she said. “When I’m out on the pitch, I’d like to think faster and find space, as well as improve my technique with both feet. I want to keep taking risks, trying things, growing and learning from my team-mates.”
Inevitably, however, Mexican fans have started to talk in excited tones about Hernandez’s play.
“One of my dreams is to play in Europe,” said the Monterrey native. “I’m a big believer in the process and love being a pioneer of Mexican women’s football. I like the team, and I’m enjoying myself. And so I’m not going to think about it anymore. I still have to develop a lot and going abroad will allow me to contribute more to the national team and keep making progress.”
Understandably, all of her feats at club level have made her hungry for success on the international stage with Mexico, where she hopes to follow in the footsteps of Maribel Dominguez, who was the standard-bearer for Mexican forwards for many years, and who now coaches the national U-17 side and is assistant coach of the senior team.
“Maribel is my favourite player ever,” she said. “I love her mentality and her football brain. The way she passes on her message and makes you understand it is fantastic. Monica Vergara is another figure who I admire a lot, for all that she’s been doing for Mexican football.”
Martinez’s goals have been set and she has taken the first few steps in the right direction. Now only time will tell if she will achieve her lofty aims.
“Another dream of mine is to become a role model for my country,” she concluded. “I would love to be able to represent it in the best possible way. That’s what I aspire to.
"I learn a lot every time I get called up to the national team. Maribel is very good about giving advice, and she’s given me a lot of useful pointers.”