By Ana Aguilera-Juarez
For the first time in history, Costa Rica was able to qualify for a Women’s World Cup, mostly thanks to a great performance during qualifiers from Dinnia Diaz, the woman between the two posts. This goalkeeper was able to stop all three shots during an intense penalty shootout against Trinidad & Tobago, thus, punching their ticket to the big tournament this summer in Canada. Diaz was also able to keep a promise she made to the girls back home.
Before participating in the World Cup qualifiers, Diaz went to a festival called Vive Tus Suenos (Live Your Dreams), and was inspired by the many girls that attended the gathering.
One of Diaz’s purposes in life is to change the way soccer is seen in her home country, and to help women gain ground through the sport so that they can accomplish their goals and dreams.
Her biggest motivating factor is seeing women playing the game with smiles on their faces.
“I said to a coach [at the festival], ‘We are going to qualify for the World Cup,'” Diaz said. “‘I promise that not just to you, but to all the girls in this country who play soccer.’ I admire the parents and many relatives who accompany girls to their practices and games. Together we have broken down many barriers and showed that soccer is not just for men. It’s time to put an end to that notion. We have gained ground and it’s time to put women’s soccer on the map in Costa Rica.”
“Let’s live this moment with faith that this country has amazing talent and there is a bright future ahead.”
Sacrifice & Commitment
Getting up before much of us are even awake, Diaz carpools with teammates to be able to get to practice by 5:00 a.m. It’s a small sacrifice she has to make in order to live her dream. It’s nothing compared to leaving her friends and family behind in the small town of Guanacaste, located in central Costa Rica, in order to move to the city.
She works closely with FEDEFUTBOL, traveling to different parts of the country giving clinics and participating in various festivals, which aim to help the women’s soccer program grow in her country.
“It’s truly a blessing to be able to work for FEDEFUTBOL,” Diaz said. “It allows me to be in close contact with the various regions in this country, and help develop festivals on a national level. I get to educate young girls and their parents on how soccer gives us the opportunity to grow in academics and our personal lives.”
Diaz also hopes that many of her teammates will soon join her in becoming an important part of the project to bring greater awareness to the benefits of women’s soccer.
“There is no word to describe the feeling I get seeing all the little girls in this country happy and able to identify themselves with all the women’s national teams.”
Like many South American countries, there is no professional soccer league for women in Costa Rica. Diaz plays club soccer to work on her skills.
She wouldn’t pass off the chance to play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) or in a European league.
“My carreer has been beautiful,” Diaz said. “I have accomplished many things that have changed my life. If God gives me the opportunity to be able to live that experience in the U.S. or in Europe, it would be wonderful. If not, I will continue to work hard each day for my club and for my country.”
One day, Diaz would like to run her own soccer academy, and work with young girls on basic soccer concepts and fundamental life development.
“I would also like to keep my family comfortable just like my grandfather,” Diaz said. “To be able to give my parents the stability they deserve, for my nieces and nephews to be able to live their dreams, and to be in good health so that I may continue to work.”
Costa Rica still has a long road ahead if they want to advance to the next round. They were placed in Group E, and will face Brazil, Korea Republic, and Spain.
“We are going to need to do a good job for us to get to the next round,” Diaz said. “It’s not going to be easy. We want to put the name of Costa Rica on the map, and give a spectacular performance with all the immense talent we have. We want to enjoy the beautiful moment that we earned by qualifying. Canada was the dream. Now we are going to give it our life, soul, and heart in each game.”
When asked who she wanted to thank for her success in life so far, Diaz said, “I am thankful for every person who has been part of my life; my family, my teammates, God, and my mother.”
Diaz also said that she wanted the young girls out there to know that she went through many difficult situations in life to get to where she is today. She hopes to one day be able to help them the way many people helped her.
“A single word of motivation can go a long way” Diaz said. “This is not just for the young girls out there but this is also for the parents. They are an important part. I didn’t have my parents with me when I went out to chase my dream. It was the economic part, the distance, and many other factors but they were always there for me despite the distance. The young girls out there should cherish the support they get from their parents.”
It’s never just about winning championships, and going to World Cups. According to Diaz, it’s about learning about yourself and accepting who you are as a person while always keeping the people who have been with you, close.
“I’m thankful for God for giving me the gift of playing soccer, for giving me a beautiful family, for the people he has put in my life, for showing me how to get back up when I have fallen down, and for loving what I do and who I am.”