Sunday 11 November 2018, 16:31

Potassa, Argentina’s poster girl

  • The only veteran of Argentina’s Women’s World Cup China 2007 squad

  • The subject of a documentary and mural, she is dreaming of a World Cup return

  • Play-off second leg against Panama on 13 November

“If she’d been born a boy, everyone would have her poster on the wall.”

Those words belong to Claudio Dionato, Belen Potassa’s first coach during her childhood years in her home town of Canada Rosquin. And the veteran Argentina’s women’s team striker is inclined to agree with him.

“I think that sentence is 100 hundred per cent true. If we were men, there’d be a few of us who would be role models for boys,” Potassa told after she had helped Argentina beat Panama 4-0 in the first leg of the intercontinental play-off for the FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™.

“What we’re trying to do now is for girls to get to know who their role models in women’s football are. There are players in the national team and at club level that they can follow, and qualifying for the World Cup would be a huge boost for the women’s game.”

Now 29, Potassa is the only member of the Argentina squad that played at China 2007, La Albiceleste’s last appearance at a senior Women’s World Cup. “It was an incredible experience, and for me personally I’d be so proud to play in the competition again.”

That experience also brings responsibility with it, as she went on to explain: “It’s not the time for me to tell the team what it’s like to be at the World Cup. There’ll be plenty of time for that later on. I just try to help the girls stay calm, especially now that we’re so close.”

The fact is, back in 2007 nobody thought that Argentina would go such a long time without qualifying. “It didn’t even cross my mind,” said Potassa, “nor that we’d go two years without a game even, losing time that others used to develop and grow.”

Making up for that lost time, La Albiceleste acquitted themselves well at the Copa America Feminina earlier this year. While they missed out on an automatic berth, they did claim the play-off place for France 2019. “That’s when we realised that with a bit more support and better preparation we could push for a place at the World Cup,” she added. “Things have changed and now we’ve got a fantastic opportunity in front of us.”

Following their emphatic defeat of the Panamanians in the first leg in Argentina, that opportunity is a golden one. “The result came as a bit of a surprise, and it was a very positive one too,” said the No9.

“Our attitude was great: we missed a penalty when it was still 0-0 but no one let their head drop. You can sometimes get annoyed when things don’t go your way, but that didn’t happen. We kept calm, knowing that the goal would eventually come, and it did.”

With Argentina holding such a commanding lead, Potassa is not concerned that they might relax ahead of the return game. “We’ve spoken about that already, and we have to go out and defend as if it were still 0-0. We know they’re going to come out and attack, but we also know that one counter-attack could settle the tie.”

Nor is the striker concerned that she failed to score in that first leg. “Sometimes us No9s have to do the dirty work and make runs to create space for others to come in. Playing for the team is the way to get goals, and if we do qualify then it will be because everyone has contributed.”

Did you know?

  • Potassa tried her hand at tennis, volleyball, swimming and roller skating before persuading her mother to find her a club with a women’s football team.

  • After making her debut with Rosario Central in 2004, she played for San Lorenzo, Santiago Morning (Chile), and Boca Juniors before joining her current club UAI Urquiza in 2014.

  • As well as China 2007, she has also represented her country at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Russia 2006 and the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008.

  • She is also a football coach and works as a school administrator.

  • Along with four other players, she took part in a documentary called Posición adelantada. Historias de otro fútbol (“Offside: Tales from Another Game.”)

  • She is the subject of a mural in her home town of Canada Rosquin: “I hope it inspires everyone who has a mission in life, not just the boys and girls who want to play sport. They need to know that you don’t have to be a man or a woman to fulfil a dream and achieve a goal.”