Duitama (Colombia) (AFP) – Yoreli Rincon says her dad used to burst her footballs with a knife to stop her playing, so sexist was the sport in her native Colombia.
Now 23, she has played professionally in Europe and the United States and currently captains Colombian club Patriotas.
She will be one of the stars of her country’s first female football championship, which she lobbied to create. It kicks off on Friday.
“I have made history in everything I have done and I want to be a champion,” she told AFP in her house in Duitama, in the mountains of central Colombia.
Her father was initially opposed to her dream career, but her elder brother encouraged her to practice.
She joined the national women’s side at age 14 and left Colombia to sign with Brazilian side Piracicaba at 19.
That was followed by stints at clubs in Sweden, Norway, Italy and the United States.
As a Colombian, “I felt I was conquering something that no other person had achieved in such a macho country,” she says.
When she was a girl, “my dad used to burst my footballs with a knife,” she recalled.
But when he first saw her play a match at age eight in her northeastern town of Bucaramanga, she scored a hat-trick.
“He was astonished. Since then he has been my number one fan.”
Rincon helped form the Patriotas women’s team, spearheading the recruitment of several foreign players.
“We all want to be like her,” says one of them, Brazilian goalkeeper Carla Da Silva, 19.
In the new Colombian women’s championship, 18 teams will play in a structure culminating in a final in six months.