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For Deyna Castellanos, soccer is happiness

Suscriptores: Haga clic aquí para leer en español

It was just after New Year, on Jan. 2, 2020, when Atlético de Madrid announced the signing of Venezuelan international Deyna Castellanos. The two leading sports newspapers in Spain didn’t hold back: “¡Bombazo!” — bombshell — exclaimed AS. “One of the most important signings of recent times,” declared MARCA.

Eight days later, under the fading sun of a cold afternoon in the Spanish capital, Atlético hosted Sporting de Huelva at their ground. There were tricolor yellow, blue and red flags in the stands, and fans with a Venezuelan accent cheered “Deyna, Deyna” as she prepared to enter the pitch.

At the time, Atlético were the three-in-a-row reigning Spanish champions with an experienced roster full of international players in their prime. Ludmila da Silva, Kylie Strom, Aïssatou Tounkara, Charlyn Corral and Sari van Veenendaal were all in the starting XI, but everybody watching was waiting for the substitute who came on in the 65th minute. Deyna Castellanos, then just 20 years old and still to make her professional debut, was greeted as a star.

And yet, she seemed hardly to notice the welcome. She looked serious on her way in, not even a glimpse of a smile. It didn’t go unremarked on the TV coverage; one commentator observed that this was the big moment she should enjoy, especially at her age. But this was never going to be the unremarkable debut of an ordinary soccer player, and Castellanos was well aware of it. Big expectations were already part of her life.

A life in the spotlight

In conversation with The Equalizer from her home in Madrid, Castellanos does not shy away from any subject. She looks at ease, very much like a seasoned professional with years of experience already behind her, and she’s confident about her words.

“I have learned that my whole life will be like this,” is her calm and reflective answer when asked about her vast impact on women’s soccer and beyond.

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