Friday 23 November 2018, 14:59

Spain's Salma hitting the fast lane

  • The Spanish player is also a talented track and field athlete

  • She's played every game for La Roja at Uruguay 2018

  • spoke to her before the meeting with Korea DPR

- Yes, it’s true. They call me Usain, after Bolt, but only my Spain team-mates!

Spain forward Salma Paralluelo has a big smile on her face as she confirms her nickname. It is an appropriate one, given that she divides her time between football and elite athletics.

“I’m a sprinter and my favourite events are the 400m, 400m hurdles, and the 200m,” she told “And in training none of my team-mates dare take me on.”

You only have to see the speedy Paralluelo zoom past opposition players at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018 to understand why. What makes her play all the more impressive is that the ball always seems to stick to her feet, no matter how fast she goes, and her finishing skills, which she showcased in the 5-0 defeat of Canada.

“I think it’s got something to do with the fact I’ve been playing since I was eight,” explained Salma, who celebrated her 15th birthday earlier in the competition. “That’s when you learn to control the ball and play in confined spaces.”

Salma’s stats at Uruguay 2018

  • Appearances: 3

  • Average playing time per match: 88 minutes and 28 seconds

  • Goals: 1

  • Assists: 1

Born to a Spanish father and Guinean mother, the Spain No11 went on to explain the adjustments she has to make when switching between her two chosen sports.

“I’m more nervous before a race than a match, because it’s all down to me,” she said. “In a match, however, there’s less tension because I share the responsibility with my team-mates. I feel more secure in a way.

“The way you run is different too, of course. In track and field you run straighter. You hit your stride and you maintain it. In football, you have these short bursts of acceleration and then you stop and turn. It’s very different. And I always try to keep an eye out to see where my team-mates are.”

Salma the athlete

  • Spanish U-18 300m champion

  • National triple jump runner-up

  • National 60m hurdles youth champion

  • National 300m hurdles youth champion and record holder

Salma Paralluelo of Spain plays the ball

There are things she loves about both sports: “In football it’s the friends you make, being in a team and feeling involved. It’s great to get support from your team-mates. And in athletics you just can’t describe how it feels when you’ve been training for a long time and things just click.”

Salma knows, however, that sooner or later she will have to choose between one or the other: “Injuries come into it, for example, and also the time the two sports take up, which means I get to study less. Right now, though, I find it very difficult to make that decision.”

A big reason for that is the experience she is currently enjoying in Uruguay, where Spain will now come up against defending champions Korea DPR in the quarter-finals. “I can compare myself with my opponents on a personal level, but this World Cup is an incredible experience on a group level. I just want to enjoy it with my team-mates. Let’s see if we can make it to the final and win the thing.”