Thursday 28 June 2018, 11:56

Castellanos: Everyone is looking forward to the Women's World Cup

  • Deyna Castellanos, 19, is already one of women's football's biggest stars​

  • She was a finalist for The Best FIFA Women’s Player award this year

  • Castellanos tells us about her role at the World Cup as an ambassador for women's football

While Venezuelan star Deyna Castellanos is dreaming of qualifying for her first FIFA Women’s World Cup™, she is making the most of an opportunity to attend Russia 2018 as an ambassador for women’s football.

The 19-year-old, who has been a finalist for both The Best FIFA Women’s Player and Puskas Awards, enjoys a huge social media following and has taken over the @FIFAWWC twitter account to boot, connecting with even more fans during her time in Moscow. With the help of high-profile FIFA Legends, she is spreading the message ‘Dare to Shine’, which is the official slogan of next year’s Women’s World Cup taking place in France from 7 June to 7 July.

We caught up with Castellanos to hear what she’s been up to at the FIFA World Cup™, and where it all started for her in terms of her love of football. What’s your role at the World Cup? Deyna Castellanos: My role here involves promoting women's football, promoting 'Dare to Shine'. That's the most important thing because it's the Women's World Cup in France next year and everyone is looking forward to it. What better time to promote the Women's World Cup than at the Men's?

What's it been like to spend time with FIFA Legends and soak up the atmosphere with fans? It’s been amazing to be with the legends – Carles Puyol, Iker Casillas, Milito, Zanetti, Cafu and more. They're all committed to supporting women's football. We ask them, "Can you promote this?" And they do it with great pleasure. And being able to speak to fans from all over the world is wonderful. The atmosphere is from another planet.

You’ve become an influencer – not many people have over a million Instagram followers! How important is it for you to be a role model? I'm lucky to be an influencer and an example for the generations coming after me – girls and also boys. It's essential for me to be an example and take the right steps in order to open a path for all those girls who are growing and starting to love this sport. In the end that's my goal – to present an opportunity to get into football for all girls.

What’s your advice to young players looking up to you? Dare to Shine! Challenge yourself, know that everything is possible and dreams do come true with lots of hard work, love and discipline. Above all, enjoy it because if you do everything with a smile on your face, it'll go much better!

How did you develop such a passion for football? Actually, it was love at first sight. I started playing when I was five because my brother used to train and my mother couldn't leave me at home alone. So, I was always running around with a ball, learning how to control it. A coach saw me and talked to my parents so that I could play.

What was it like to grow up playing in Venezuela? Football is very popular in South America, but in Venezuela the most important sport is baseball. There were no women’s football teams in Venezuela, just men’s. From when I was five to 16, I played with boys. It was really hard, but I'm grateful because that turned me into the player I am now. After we played so well in the U-17 Women’s World Cup, women's football started to appear. Today, there are clubs specifically for women. That's really important because it's going to continue growing until we have a professional football league in Venezuela.

What's your dream? The aim is to get the Venezuela senior women’s team to a World Cup, be the best player in the world and make women's football as big as the men's game.