Monday 02 October 2017, 09:05

Pioneering Herrera cherishing a Libertadores dream

Alejandra Herrera is not afraid of blazing a trail. In a few short days, she will register another momentous landmark in her life by becoming the first player from El Salvador to appear in the Women’s Copa Libertadores.

“I’m excited about it and it pushes me to keep going,” said the captain of River Plate, the 2017 Argentinian champions, in an exclusive interview with “I know it can be a shop window for the rest of the girls in El Salvador because there is talent in my country and a lot of it too. Being a role model for them and opening doors and pushing them to go and do the same really motivates me.”

Fact file *Name: Alejandra Herrera Reyes Age: 24 Achievements: the first female player from El Salvador to win a title in South America International career: U-17s, U-20s, U-23s, full national team Position:* right midfield (River Plate) or playmaker (El Salvador)

Alejandra on the Copa Libertadores: *A unique experience *“Playing in this Libertadores is the biggest achievement of my career so far, along with winning the league title. I’m very excited. It’s my first Libertadores and River’s first too. It’s a personal and professional achievement to be a part of this process.”

*River’s chances* “I think we can win the competition even though we’ve got first-teamers who are as young as 15 and 16. They’re incredibly talented, though, and as a team we’re in great shape too. We’re the fittest side in Argentina.”

Alejandra on her time in Argentina *On her arrival in February 2015 *“I was making preparations to go to the USA and there was a FIFA grassroots course in El Salvador. That was where I met Diego Guacci (a former River Plate coach and a FIFA instructor), who said I could come. I’d never even envisaged it but I came and had a trial. The league in El Salvador wasn’t going to test me. It would have been too comfortable for me and I wasn’t going to grow.”

*The best things about Argentinian women’s football* “The preparation, what I’ve learned about the game, and feeling good about my body and being better prepared. There’s a lot of physical contact here. I wasn’t used to taking knocks all the time but it pushed me to go and find the strength I needed to make it.”

Alejandra on football in her country *The talent *“We play a cuter, more cunning game than in the rest of Central American, like the kind of football you play on the street. The skill levels are high but we need to make that change in terms of preparation, so we can express ourselves better on a physical level and be as competitive as the rest.”

The Copa UNCAF, the qualifying competition for the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ qualifiers in the CONCACAF Zone “The tournament’s coming up in December and we’ve got the players to make it. It’s all going to come down to our preparations, though. We can win the first game but the second one’s going to be very tough for us on a physical level. I’d like to pass my experience on to the girls, to tell them how they do things in Argentina, how to watch what they eat, how to respond in certain situations.”

*Examples to follow* “They’ve gone big in Colombia but I’d start by taking a look at Costa Rica, who’ve got a professional league. You’ve also got to make young players understand that they have to try and see themselves playing outside El Salvador. They can get too comfortable and though leaving is not easy, it’s not impossible either. You have to dream that it can be done.”

Alejandra on... *Her winning mindset *“My parents always taught me to stand out, to overcome situations. When I was 19 I decided to go and study and play in Mexico. I didn’t know anyone. That was when I got strong in my mind and my heart.”

*The future* “I split it up into stages. I want to be happy at River, first and foremost, because I’ve got more to give. I want to have a good Libertadores, on an individual and a team level. Then, in terms of the standard of football, I’d like to go to Spain. I can see myself giving it a go there. And if I can make the grade there, then I’d try Sweden or France.”

When, where and who To be held in Paraguay between 7-21 October, the ninth Women’s Copa Libertadores will be contested by 12 South American teams. They will be divided into three groups, with the section winners and the best second-placed side advancing to the semi-finals. The reigning champions are Sportivo Limpeno of Paraguay.