Meet Andrea Martínez, the first female soccer (not soccer) player in Mexico

Throughout her life, Andrea Martínez has relied on two pillars: perseverance and family. Thanks to them, she is poised to reach unprecedented heights in the top flight of Mexican American football at the college level as its first female entrant.

Martínez is on the payroll of Pumas CU, the soccer team of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) that begins its season this weekend in the highest category of Mexican university soccer.

Soccer has been played in Mexico for nearly a century, but in that period a woman has never been registered to play in the Major League of the ONEFA league. That ends with Martinez, who as a kicker will handle extra points for Pumas.

Martinez, 21, of Mexico City, says she is completely focused on rewarding her team’s trust in her by blocking comment from the media, the country’s soccer community and fans.

“I haven’t paid attention to what’s going on around me, and I’m not distracted by what’s on social media either,” Martinez said. “I’m just focused on practice. I’ve run into people who say, ‘Hey, congratulations!’ And that’s the only thing I allow myself to react to.”

Martínez’s answers are brief and direct. She says that he doesn’t feel like a role model and will let her acting be groundbreaking for her.

“I think the example will come depending on how you do things,” he said. “I know getting to this level can be an inspiration to a lot of women, and even men, but all of that will come when the matches are played and the way you play them.”

Martinez is about to enter the history books, but his toughest test came during the COVID pandemic of the last two years, in which he lost his father and grandfather.

The death of the former was particularly heartbreaking for her. Armando Martínez was Andrea’s main source of support and advice throughout her life. However, he was torn from her when she fell ill with COVID-19. She was never able to hug or see him again and was only able to say goodbye to her when she was already in the morgue.

At noon this Saturday, when Pumas CU scores its first touchdown and Martinez is called up to kick the extra point, there’s no question who will be on his mind first and foremost.

“I dedicate it to my dad because he is no longer with me,” Martinez said of Armando, who died last year. “He always supported me in everything I did, specifically when it came to sports.”

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If successful, that kick will be worth more than a point to Martinez. It will also serve to reflect those two pillars: persistence and family.

law student, daughter, sister, footballer

Martínez is many things; among them, university student, daughter, sister and owner of a dog. In addition to being at Pumas CU, she also coaches youth soccer.

“Right now I’m in my ninth semester, taking a graduate-level course,” Martinez said. “My classes in law school have been mostly online. I wake up at 6 in the morning, take a shower, take classes from 7 to 11. After that, I help my mom with whatever needs to be done around the house , then I get ready for practice. 1:30, with exercise and some protein.”

Martinez works on his technique with his position coach before practicing with the rest of his teammates, then watches a movie to see where he needs to improve.

“After practice, we train the kids, we finish around 7:30, and I go home.”

Do you have enough time for friends and a social life? She said yes.

“It’s not like I set aside specific times of the day for my friends, because I see them everywhere,” he said. “I see them at school, they are my classmates. The same happens with my puppy, I have a responsibility with him. I come home and take him out for a walk. The point is to know how to organize yourself and realize that there is time for everything.”

Martinez has always seemed to have a full plate. Her mother, Josefina Sánchez, noticed it in her from a young age and is not surprised that her daughter is achieving her goal of getting a bachelor’s degree and playing soccer.

“She has been hyperactive since she was a child, always looking for an activity, and the best thing for her was always sports,” Sánchez said. “We are very happy with the turn towards football, because she is a girl who achieves what she sets out to do.

“She’s introverted, strong. She’s very resilient. She’s been through a lot of very tough tests.”

Among those mentioned by her mother is her foray into professional football, another sport that Andrea is passionate about. She was a midfielder for Cruz Azul in Liga MX Femenil before being released.

“She was sad that Cruz Azul cut her off, but she didn’t let that get her down,” Sanchez said. She “she returned with the UNAM women’s team and moved on.”

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Fate then smiled on Martinez as the soccer team searched for a kicker, and she left no stone unturned in a search that eventually turned to the women’s soccer team, where Martinez’s persistence was noted.

The challenges ahead

American football was not a foreign concept to the Martinez family. Andrea’s brother was a champion with Tigres, so his adaptation in Pumas CU was easy.

“The tryouts opened, so the captain of the soccer team invited us from the women’s soccer team who wanted an opportunity in the position of kicker. We arrived like 15 girls. It was a week in which we went through various tests. until they elected me,” Martinez said.

“This year we wanted to open the doors to women in the Major League, because after all Pumas is the Mexican team, the university team… universal, you could say,” said Diego Paredón, team captain. “We know how to work together across genders, and I am very happy to have a woman in our ranks, tied to what she has achieved. It is a war out there, and to us she is just our sister who has earned her place. “

Paredón added: “The motivation for this came from the context in which we live. It is difficult for women, and we really wanted to find a light at the end of the tunnel through football. One that she is a pioneer in, leading more women tomorrow.” It is not a question of politics, but of fraternity”.

While focusing solely on his performance, Martínez also began to prepare physically to be in top condition for the season opener against Borregos Monterrey. Still, she knows that as a kicker, the mental part of her is key.

“I always try to focus as much as I can, not only during a game but also in practice, because you have to train like it’s game day,” he said. “That’s how the mental part speeds up and you get used to it, so you don’t lose focus with every little thing that happens during the game.”

While his responsibility at the moment is extra points, Martinez is preparing to eventually attempt a field goal. His longest successful kick in practice measures 45 yards.

In this way, Martínez is ready to debut in the Major League and honor the pillars that brought her here: the perseverance and support of her family.

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