CORAL GABLES (CBSMiami) – In about three weeks the University of Miami women’s soccer team will hit the field to start the 2015 season.READ MORE: Miami Beach Ordinance Seeks To Roll Back Alcohol Sales In Entertainment District
Their last line of defense just so happens to be a world class goal keeper.
Before Catalina Perez stepped onto to the World Cup stage she was trying to make it in America, leaving behind her native country of Colombia at the age of four.
“I didn’t speak English at all,” explained Perez. “I was very shy and I would go to school and I would just sit there and that’s when soccer became an outlet. I didn’t talk much but [playing soccer] I didn’t have to talk much. I could just play.”
She never stopped playing and by the age of 15 she landed on the Colombian national team. As fate would have it, her first World Cup match would be between her two homes.
“Once the anthem [played] I was like I’m going to sing it louder than ever, I just felt very proud to be Colombian,” she said. “I didn’t feel torn, it felt like nice nerves.”
Naturally there were nerves, but she wasn’t alone.READ MORE: Miami Gardens Opens New Walk-Up COVID-19 Vaccination Site
“Now my staff makes fun of me because I did start to cry and I videotaped the TV and I was just so proud and so excited,” said University of Miami women’s soccer coach Frances Monroe.
“Once the first save came, I was like Thank God, I felt like this is my day, I had nothing to lose,” said Perez. “Now looking back I did have a lot to lose. It was nice telling myself.”
Catalina can laugh now but her first World Cup appearance was a roller coaster of emotions, blocking everything in sight until a red card sent her off the pitch and out of the game.
“I couldn’t really sleep the for the days after, I was trying to grasp everything in my head,” she said. “I was like what can I do, in my head, I was like what can I do, what can do?”
By the time the Colombian team returned home, the spinning stopped and the cheering started.
“There was a ton of people, a bunch of people, a bunch of little of girls from teams waiting for us,” Perez said with a smile. “We had never had that before and now to have like that in that magnitude. It was awesome, and it’s awesome to see how soccer is changing in Colombia. From being something a girl doesn’t do, to now something that is celebrated.MORE NEWS: South Florida Bride, Groom Crashers At Own Fort Lauderdale Mansion Wedding
The 2015 World Cup in Canada is not the end of the road for Perez as she hopes to participate in future World Cups and also in the Olympics.