Let’s set the scene a little bit.
It’s 3:55 PM on a sunny Monday afternoon at adidas’ World of Sports HQ in Herzogenaurach, Germany. It’s the third day of my internship and I have been given the honor of interviewing Olympique Lyonnais footballer, Catarina Macario, about her life. I am immensely nervous, yet unbelievably excited.
It’s now 4:00 PM.
The interview is starting.
An interview that solidified the very concept that keeps me motivated: anything is possible if impossible doesn’t exist.
It all started 18 years ago
Sprinting through the warm evening air with a football gliding swiftly through the grass is an accurate representation of Catarina’s childhood.
Catarina grew up playing football from the age of four in São Luís, Maranhão, Brazil. What started as a hobby quickly turned into a passion. This passion then turned into a dream. A dream to pursue what she loved, despite the obstacles that stood in her way.
Catarina played on the boys’ football team in Brazil throughout her entire childhood. As the years passed and as her skill for the game grew, it became evident that she needed to move on. And in 2011, that is exactly what she did. Catarina moved from Brazil to the US with her dad and brother to continue pursuing what she loved.
When asked about the transition, Catarina smiled and transparently stated that it was not easy.
“Everything was so new to me. I arrived in the US with no English, my mom had to stay in Brazil, and my friends were all back home. All I had was a football. Luckily, with a football, you don’t need to say much. You just need to know how to play the game. It is a different form of communication; one that is universal. It brings people together.”
This stood out to me. It gave me a perspective I had never been given before. Life doesn’t always need to be easy to be enjoyable. It’s overcoming these challenges in life that ultimately ends up bringing us so much joy.
“It’s just tremendous to think about where I started and where I am today. How much I’ve grown. How much I’ve changed. Because of these challenges, I have been able to experience so much at a young age. I just hope that this is just the beginning.”
Catarina continues to express her excitement for the future. She wants to continue pursuing her dream, experiencing new firsts, and breaking barriers that have never been broken before.
Her view on life inspired me. Reaching for the stars is one thing, but building your own rocket to get there is another. That is what Catarina has done. She made it to the stars and realized how big space actually was. Now, she’s ready to explore the rest of it.
It takes a village
It is incredible to think about how unique we all are as individuals living on the same planet (or among the same stars in this case). Catarina and I are the same age, yet completely different people. Our dreams are different. Our aspirations are different. Our motivations are different. But that’s what makes humans so beautiful. None of us are the same.
Learning more about Catarina and her tenacity to get to where she is today brought me an unexplainable amount of joy. The word that best describes my feelings towards Catarina is: proud. I am proud to be sitting down with a strong, passionate and determined individual who has experienced so much success when pursuing her dream, but still manages to remain humble.
Catarina is a Champions League winner, a French League winner, a Ballon d’Or nominee, a graduate of Stanford University. And the list goes on. My mind was blown when I learned about all the incredible achievements she has under her belt, but when I asked her about them, she just smiled and said,
“As much as I am proud of them, it was a team effort to get here. It’s a mixture of a lot of people fighting for the same goals and working together to achieve them. That’s why I don’t really feel like it’s my success; it’s all of ours.”
She continued to smile and looked at her dad.
“I truly would not be where I am today without the support of my dad. He took a chance on me and believed in my abilities, even if it meant making the biggest sacrifices. That’s why I always have to give him a shout-out. He helped me to become who I am today, and I am so grateful for that.”
Teamwork and family. That’s what I took from the way Catarina continued to answer questions based on her journey while pursuing her dream. She is an ideal model to showcase the importance of how we are stronger together.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Seems like Catarina has her perfect village.
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Injuries are just a little twist in the narrative, and that's okay
A perfect village doesn’t mean a perfect life. In life, we are not given the choice to avoid the inevitable. In sports, we are not given the choice to avoid injury.
When I think of an injury in sports, I don’t necessarily think of the physical pain it causes me.
I think of the strain it puts on pursuing my dream.
I think of the inability to do the thing I love.
However, I also understand that with every negative, there is a positive waiting patiently on the horizon.
When discussing the topic of Catarina’s current anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, it became evident within seconds that she had the same mentality.
“I think injuries allow you to take a step back from who you are as an athlete. Especially because as athletes, we’re always training and pushing ourselves to the limit to ensure we can be the best for our team. But with an injury, you literally cannot continue to train.”
Catarina continued to reflect on how her injuries have shaped her into who she is today.
“Taking a mandatory step back from the field has actually helped me become a much more well-rounded person. I would not be where I am today without the injuries I’ve had. I know that even though this happened, it’s just part of life. It’s just part of the game. It’s just another little twist in the narrative, and that’s okay. I’ve been able to explore what the world has to offer, spend more time with family, and learn more about myself outside of the field. It’s almost like I have the time now to rewrite myself as a player and as a person. It’s cool.”
Turning lemons into lemonade. Catarina seems to be quite skilled at that.
Pushing for change with a desire to inspire
As we can clearly see, Catarina showcases resilience in her determination to cope with injury, pursue her dream, and balance all the hurdles life puts in her way. Not only has she demonstrated her adaptability and achieved great success in her career, but she is constantly breaking barriers and pushing for what she believes in.
Being a woman who grew up playing sports my entire life, Catarina’s words made an impact on me. I understood exactly what she meant and exactly why she wants to level the playing field. Catarina continued to passionately discuss her aspirations for the future and how she would do her best to try to make it a reality.
As I said before, it takes a village to raise a child. However, I failed to state that the village needs to exist before the child can be raised. In Catarina’s case, this village was formed and has been expanded into an array of supportive individuals. With this support and Catarina’s positive influence, I have full confidence in her ability to create a ripple effect in the sports industry and help make the change that is needed.
Not only do I have confidence that Catarina will make an incredible impact on the world of women in sports, but she already overcame obstacles herself when moving to the US. Catarina pursued her dream and became the first non-national to play for the US. She proudly represents her nationality on and off the field. By breaking through this barrier, she has opened up the doors for others.
This is just the start of Catarina Macario’s story, and I can’t wait to see where her legacy takes us next.