Wednesday 02 August 2023, 00:30

Deyna Castellanos: “We have to let people be and live the way they want to”

It’s impossible to talk about women’s football in Venezuela without talking about Deyna Castellanos. “Queen Deyna”, as she is known, is a household name in Venezuela not only because of the awards she’s won or because she’s the captain of the national team, but because of her dedication to helping young female players pursue their dreams.

While Deyna made a brilliant debut for Venezuela’s U-17 national team in 2014, the moment that really changed her life came in 2016, when she was given a scholarship to study at the University of Florida. She started her university football career in the USA and stayed until she finished her studies in 2020, moving to Europe when she was only 21 years old.

She signed her first professional contract with Atlético de Madrid, where she dazzled on the pitch for two seasons before moving to Manchester City in mid-2022, where she currently plays. A star in Europe, she has a number of awards to her name and knows that her message will reach a wide audience.

Before the start of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™, FIFA announced that this World Cup would also focus on raising awareness and the #NoDiscrimination campaign, which is aimed at addressing all forms of discrimination, including racism, through concrete action.

Deyna set up a foundation that promotes education and gender equality around the world. She’s working with a number of organisations to launch education programmes in North and South America and is aware of the central role FIFA plays in this campaign.

“There’s still a lot of work ahead but I think that FIFA has always done great things to fight discrimination and prevent it in all its iterations. That’s very important. FIFA is world football’s governing body and football is one of the most watched sports in the world,” said Queen Deyna.

What stands out from our conversation in Sydney/Gadigal is how difficult it is for players to be on social media and the important step that was taken in this regard at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™.

“The fact that [since then] we have had a social media protection service is extremely important. As players, we are constantly being scrutinised by the general public. We will never be everyone’s cup of tea,” said Deyna, who has lined up in two editions of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup™.

Queen Deyna, who is also a journalist, has always been clear about fighting for equality for girls: “Obviously, I’m fighting for gender equality, for education for women and girls and for a better world, filled with better things, like this World Cup. I always talk about it and I think that’s my way of trying to change the world a little.

“It’s very sad that discrimination and racism continue to exist, when they shouldn’t. The world is changing and cultures develop. That also means that we have to let people be and live the way they want to, as long as they’re not harming anyone. There’s no room for discrimination or abuse,” concluded Deyna.