Colombian society is crazy about football and the success of the national team in the last decade proved that this country needs women football, and not just men’s football. Excellent female players like Yoreli Rincon, Natalia Gaitan or Lady Andrade find themselves in some of the top leagues in the world. From now on you can memorize a new name: The talented midfielder, Leicy Santos, who is joining the Spanish side and one of the best European clubs, Atletico Madrid.
Up until a few months ago, the women football future in Colombia didn’t look very bright. The professional league was close to being shut down, and the national team didn’t have a single match in a year. However, in the end, the Colombian federation and the women football organization reached an agreement which cancelled the decision to close the league while the federation promised to do what it takes to make the Colombian women football more popular. And in the meantime, players like Santos try and keep the fire alive.
Leicy was born on May 16th 1996 in Lorica county in Cordoba, Colombia. Since she was a little girl, she liked to play with the ball despite her mother’s resistance, who preferred to dress her in dresses. “She wanted me to look like a princess, but instead I would come home from the football pitch covered with dust and mud”, told Leicy. While her father was selling fish in the market, she helped her mother with the housework, but her biggest dream was to play professional football which will earn her money, that would help take the family out of the county.
After a friend of her father saw her training one day, he recommended the family to move to Bogota. He heard that Colombian coach, Pedro Rodriguez, has searched for players for the local Besser club. The family packed what’s necessary and moved to the capital of Colombia. After a few months in Besser where she showed her skills, Felipe Taborda, the national team coach in 2012, called and invited her to the U-17 squad. She was thrilled. It was a dream come true. Taborda told that he travelled across the country to find players. When he heard of Leicy, he came to watch her play and was very impressed. According to him, she is the best Colombian player at the moment and one of the most exceptional talents the country has. She is among the few players who played in all the national team’s categories - U-17, U-20 and Senior.
She made her international debut at the 2012 U-17 South America’s championship in Bolivia when Colombia defeated Chile 3-0 and Leicy scored two goals. She justified the confidence that she received from both Rodriguez and Taborda. When the Colombian professional league was founded in 2017, Leicy joined Independiente Santa Fe. It didn’t take too much to notice who is the best player in the league. She had a fantastic year, reaching the final with Santa Fe, and scoring one of the goals at El Campin stadium in front of 36,000 people. Santa Fe has won the championship, and Leicy Santos was named MVP of the season. In two years she scored 26 goals: Two in the Copa Libertadores and 24 in the league.
After she achieved all of her dreams at the national level, now it’s time for her biggest dream: To succeed in Europe. As part of the co-operation between the Colombian and Spanish federations, Santa Fe played a friendly match in 2018 against the Spanish champion, Atletico Madrid. The game ended in a 1-1 draw in Madrid, when Leicy was among the best on the pitch. It was enough for Atletico’s staff to mark her name in the notebook. She’ll be the first Colombian to wear the red-white stripes of Los Colchoneras and will try to prove that she deserves to play with the best.
Meanwhile, she was the best player of Colombia in the 2019 Panamerican Games and led the Super Poderosas to win the gold medal for the first time in history. In the final match against Argentina, she was very active and scored the crucial fifth penalty in the shoot-out. Leicy is hoping to make history, to be an example and to inspire many girls who dream of becoming professional footballers one day to make it as their regular job. Remember the name for the upcoming 2023 World Cup. With Leicy, Colombia’s future looks bright.