Meet Andrea Martinez, Mexico’s first female soccer (non-football) player

Throughout her life, Andrea Martinez has relied on two pillars: perseverance and family. Because of them, she is on the verge of reaching unprecedented heights in the Mexico Super League of American Football at the university level as the first female participant.

Martinez is on the list of Pumas CU, the soccer team of the National Autonomous University of Mexico – UNAM in Spanish – who begins their season this weekend in Mexico’s top level college football.

Football has been played in Mexico for nearly a century, but in that period no women were registered to play in Liga Mayor in the ONEFA League. That ends with Martinez, who will handle Pumas’ bonus points.

The Mexico City-born 21-year-old Martinez says she is fully focused on rewarding her team’s trust in her – withholding comments from the media, the country’s football community and fans.

“I didn’t pay any attention to what was going on around me, nor did I get distracted by what was on social media,” Martinez said. “I’m just focusing on practice. I’ve met people who say, ‘Hey, congratulations!’ And that’s the only thing I’ll allow myself to answer.”

Martinez’s answers are short and direct. She says she doesn’t feel like a role model and will let her performance lay the foundation for her.

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

Martinez is about to enter the history books, but her hardest test came during the COVID pandemic in the past two years, as she lost her father and grandfather.

The first’s death was especially heartbreaking for her. Armando Martinez has been the main source of support and advice for Andrea throughout her life. However, he separated from her when he fell ill with the COVID-19 virus. She was never able to hug him or see him again, and was only able to say goodbye to him when he was already in the morgue.

On Saturday afternoon, when Pumas CU scores its first touchdown and Martinez is called in to kick the extra point, there’s no doubting who will be on her mind first and foremost.

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

If successful, that kick would be more than just one point for Martinez. It will also reflect these two pillars: perseverance and family.

Law student, girl, sister, football player

Martinez is many things. They include a college student, a daughter, a sister, and a dog owner. Apart from being in Pumas CU, she is also coaching youth football.

“I am now in my ninth semester, taking a course at a postgraduate level,” Martinez said. “My law school classes were mainly online. I get up at six in the morning, shower, and take lessons from 7-11. 1:30, with some exercise and some protein.”

Martinez works out her technique with her coach before training with the rest of her teammates, then watches the movie to determine what needs work.

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

Does she have enough time for friends and social life? She says yes.

“It’s not like I dedicate specific hours of the day to my friends, because I see them everywhere,” she said. “I see them at school, they are my teammates. The same thing happens with my little dog, and I take responsibility for him. I come home and take him for a walk. The point is knowing how to organize yourself and realizing that there is a time for everything.”

Martinez always seemed to have a full plate. Her mother, Josefina Sanchez, noticed this from a young age and was not surprised that her daughter was achieving her goal of getting a degree and playing football.

“She has been very active since she was a little girl, she was always looking for activity, and the best thing for her was always sports,” Sanchez said. “We are very happy with the switch to football, because she is a girl who accomplishes everything she sets out to do.

“She’s introverted, strong. She has a lot of resilience. She’s been through a lot of very complicated ordeals.”

Among those cited by her mother is her entry into professional football, another sport that Andrea loves. She was a midfielder with Cruz Azul in Liga MX Femenil prior to her release.

“She was saddened to be cut by Cruz Azul, but she didn’t let her put her down,” Sanchez said. “She returned with the UNAM women’s team and continued.”

Destiny then smiled to Martinez when the football team was looking for a player, leaving no stone unturned in the search which eventually turned into the women’s football team, where Martinez’s insistence stood out.

Challenges ahead

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

“They opened the auditions, so the captain of the soccer team invited those of us on the women’s soccer team who wanted a shot in the kick position. We had about 15 girls in attendance. It was a week we went through a lot of tests,” Martinez said.

“This year we wanted to open the doors for the women of the Liga Mayor, because at the end of the day, Pumas is the Mexico team, the university team… my world,” said team leader Diego Baridon. “We know how to work both genders together, and I’m so happy to have a woman in our ranks connected with what I’ve accomplished. It’s a war there, and for us it’s just our sister who has earned her spot.”

Baredon added: “The motivation for that came from the context we live in. It’s tough for women, and we really wanted to find a light at the end of the tunnel through football. One she pioneered, for more women tomorrow. It’s not a question of politics, it’s fraternity.”

While Martinez focused only on her performance, she began to prepare physically as well to be in top shape for the inaugural season against Borregos Monterrey. However, she knows the mental part is key as a key player.

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

While her responsibility at the moment is plus points, Martinez is gearing up to try out a field goal at the end. Her longest successful kick in training is 45 yards.

This way, Martinez is ready to make her Liga Mayor debut and honor the pillars that brought her here: perseverance and the support of her family.

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