“Mom, I don’t want a doll, I want a ball and shoes,” Linda Caicedo said, like that, with the innocent look of a girl who was only 5 years old and already thought she was clear about what she wanted, not for that Christmas, not for her childhood. but for life.
Her mother, Herlinda Alegría, did not find it strange. Since she had it, she realized that Linda had a fixation on soccer, perhaps a lot of kicks in the belly, as moms say, or perhaps it was because since she was crawling she was already pushing the bottle as if it were round, pushing it and picking it up and pushed him again and when he was already walking he made goals with everything that was on the way, the dolls that he did not use, even the pots in the kitchen. She cute needed the ball urgently.
He played in the uncovered streets of the La Gaviota neighborhood, in the village of Villa Gorgona (Valle del Cauca), where he grew up playing with children, older children, older but less skilled children. There, from playing so much, he destroyed shoes voraciously. Every once in a while, the same dialogue at home: “Mom, it’s just that my shoes are damaged.”
And Doña Herlinda ran to buy him new ones, she opted to buy him some rubber ones, so they would hold up, but not like that. Linda, who came home every day with scraped knees, needed her cleats. And she needed a ball, and a court. And she needed a team to show that her idea of childhood was not crazy. And so, so small, Herlinda and her husband, Mauro Caicedo, took her to the first soccer school, Real Juanchito.
“There are no more girls,” they warned.
“It doesn’t matter,” said the mother.
-Can you play with the children?
–Yes, you can.
– Well, bring her.
And that’s where his story began until today, when he is a figure of the Colombian National Team that qualified for the World Cup in India and that this Sunday plays the final of the South American U-17 against Brazil.
At 10 years old, only 10 years old! Linda, who already had her ball and her shoes and was making her way through the children’s school, arrived at the Generaciones Palmireñas club. She arrived quietly, but nobody counted on Linda screaming on the field, screaming with feints, screaming with goals. She wanted to get on the field all the plays and the goals that were born in her head.
No one in the family played soccer. And his mom didn’t like it. And if he likes her today, it’s only because of her. To see her. She became a soccer mom. She was the one who took her to training, she sat on the side of the field to try to understand that passion of her daughter. She even wondered, she has confessed, why she had had a daughter and not a son. But she was understanding, she was accepting. “You have to support your children in what they like: we women can too,” says Herlinda with her proud voice.
By then, her first coaches were in no doubt that she was a different player. “I remember her as a humble, simple girl; We helped her with things, she was given uniforms. A quiet, calm girl, who did not imagine what she was going to live; She made that difference since she was little, with a lot of talent. At the age of 10, she played with those of 13, 14, and took advantage of them, ”says Felipe Taborda, the DT who received her at Generaciones Palmireñas.
From there, Linda went to Atlas de Cali, played Pony Soccer (traditional children’s tournament), joined the Valle Selection, and always scoring goals, always with her feints, and with her dance in goal celebrations; She then went to América, the club she is a fan of, which was already a first dream come true.
“Daughter, but you are very small,” warned Herlinda.
“I can, Mom, I can,” Linda replied.
He did not play the first half. When they put her in, the four of us held hands, my other daughter, María, a niece and my husband, and we said: ‘God, help us’
And he could. The girl who kicked the dolls and cried out to her mother to buy her shoes and a ball became a figure in Colombian women’s soccer. The premiere in America was a moment that the family will not forget: “He didn’t play the first half. When they put her in, the four of us held hands, my other daughter, María, a niece and my husband, and we said: ‘God, help us’. We were nervous. And when he scored the first goal (against Cortuluá) we already let go: it was incredible, very beautiful, an unforgettable emotion”, says Herlinda.
At just 14 years old, Linda was champion in 2019 with América and the championship’s top scorer with 7 goals. The rising sun was shining. “Linda is very talented, she has a combination of many factors: physical, like power, strength; technically, as a player with a good pass, with control, and tactically she is intelligent, with good decisions. If she continues down that path, training well, we are facing one of the great figures of Colombian and world soccer, ”said coach Andrés Usme, who had her at América.
He could not play the Copa Libertadores that year with the scarlet team, due to his age, but it was not long before he had his revenge. He moved on to Deportivo Cali, the city’s rival. She was champion of the women’s league again, in 2021. She finally played the Copa Libertadores. The continent was able to meet the player who dazzled Colombia, the one with the intrepid and happy game.
(You may be interested in: U-17 women’s team: DT thinks about the title and the future)
Former Argentine soccer player Juan Pablo Sorín was exhausted: “How Linda Caicedo plays soccer. She is 16… yes, 16 years old. Goals, assists, footsteps… complete repertoire…”, she wrote during that Cup on Twitter.
The dream in the Selection
Give her a ball and she does magic with it. She turns a pass into a trick, she turns soccer into talent, playfulness, skill. A wall, a tunnel; fake here, go out there; look over there, kick over here; they don’t stop her, they don’t find her, they don’t stop her, it’s as if she were floating on the court waiting for the ball, and when she has it, she competes with the wind, fast, unattainable, and defeats it, and with the ball there, glued to her foot, docile, hers, as if it were the same ball she asked her mother for as a child.
I’m going to set more goals in my career, but for now it’s about finishing this year in the best way and being able to play abroad
His arrival in the National Team has been special. A very good first phase of the South American, with 3 goals. He hit two more on the final home run. He guided the team to qualify for the World Cup in India. And he’s barely 17, yes, 17! He fulfilled them on February 22, a few days from the South American.
And when he talks about his future, he does it with impetus, as if he were older. “I’m going to set more goals in my career, but for now it’s about ending this year in the best way and being able to go play abroad,” he told EL TIEMPO.
Linda has already graduated from high school, at the Gran Colombia school in Villa Gorgona. She studies English virtually. She has not decided what career she wants to do, she likes technical management, business administration. She would like to play in the United States and study there. She likes Barcelona, PSG. She admires Messi, Neymar, Mbappé, Catalina Usme, the player of the national team older than her, she has been the image of her to follow; to Marta, the Brazilian star. She likes to go to the movies, read, read a lot, she takes a book with her for each concentration (she really enjoyed Jorge Valdano’s book The 11 powers of the leader).
And if her mother is asked what Linda is like, she responds as mothers do: “It is not because she is my daughter… but she is a very good daughter, a good person, she has humility, tranquility, peace, harmony, she is dedicated. Football for her comes first”.
His thing is soccer, soccer, soccer, the ball, the field, playing, being champion again, shining in the National Team, having a great World Cup, going to play abroad and not stopping growing. That is Linda Caicedo, the same one that she had clear since she was crawling what she wanted for her life.
Editor of THE TIME
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