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Kika Nazareth, the Portuguese jewel of Jorge Mendes / Euro 2022 / Gr. C / Netherlands-Portugal /

Living her first international competition thanks to the repechage of Portugal following the exclusion of Russia, Francisca Nazareth is at 19 years old the “crack” of this selection. A little over a year ago, the one who gets her silky ball touch from her hours spent on the futsal courts also became the very first player to be represented by Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes.

Being a pioneer of women’s football at just 18 years old is unusual. On March 22, 2021, Benfica striker Francisca Nazareth became the first female player to come under the fold of Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes. She thus joins the Gestifute “family”, and its flashy names like Cristiano Ronaldo, João Félix or Bernardo Silva. If the world football magnate looked into the case of the young person whom all Portugal nicknamed Kika and decided to make her the figurehead of his new team in women’s football, it is not entirely due to the chance. The twirling striker from Benfica, capable of occupying all the attacking spots, is considered in Portugal as a “crack”: debut in pro at 16 years old, a first selection for the A at 17… Arrival at the Lisbon club at the age of 15, she is even compared to João Félix, in particular for her touch of the magic ball. “I’m humble and I don’t like to brag, but comparing myself to João Félix? We are talking about João Félixanswers a little surprised the number 18 of the Aguias in an interview with the newspaper Oh Benfica. It’s a comparison… that puts a certain pressure and expectation. Of course, I’m very flattered, but only the future can show what level I can reach. »

“She was always the best”

However, on the side of his friends, there is little doubt about the heights that the one they call “Cisca”, like his family, can reach. “From the first training, she did magical things, which were very difficult for us to achieve” , recalls for Canal 11 one of her four friends with whom she started futsal at Os Torpedos, after having confiscated the ball for a long time from her comrades in the playground. His coach at the time, one of the sports teachers at his neighborhood school in Lisbon, remembers having detected ” something different ” from his first shots. Her mother, who saw her daughter spend hours playing with a ball almost her size on Portuguese beaches, is not surprised: “It was all natural for her. » The four friends with whom she makes misery for many teams on the Portuguese courts remember never having treated Kika differently because of her sex, but because of her talent: “In training, it annoyed us that every time she tried a one-on-two, she passed. At school, in all kinds of sports, she was always the best. » And at each tournament, the prize for best player is for her, almost forcing futsal to think about a feminization of its trophies. Her technical gestures, her ball control, her virtuosity and her speed, the attacker owes them to her hours spent on the asphalt field behind the school, where many neighbors finally come to observe the matches of the number 9 in purple.

When Kika was 14, the coach who followed her throughout her childhood put her face to face with the reality of adults: that which demands the end of mixed teams from adolescence. Exit the dribbling numbers with friends, Kika Nazareth must now play in the women’s team, if possible on a green rectangle according to the advice of her coach. In 2016, she therefore briefly joined Futebol Benfica, then Casa Pia, where she learned the basics of 11-a-side football fast enough to be spotted by the real Benfica two years later. At just 16 years old, she is already realizing her dream, she is the kid who spent hours every weekend in the bays of the Estádio da Luz with her sister and her father. For her professional debut, she scored her first goal in her first match, before scoring a hat-trick against A-dos-Francos in a big 14-0 victory. Still alternating between young and professional teams, she ended up signing a professional contract at 18 and joined the Portuguese team in the process, after having impressed her world in the U17s and U19s. Coach Francisco Neto takes her along with 22 other players to the Algarve Cup, where Francisca takes the opportunity to hit the ball with her idols. Being part of a generation of women who have benefited from recent progress in women’s football, she only briefly names João Félix, Ronaldo or Ricardinho when asked who her idols are, before preferring women.

“She used to say she was going to be president”

“I like to take certain points or characteristics from different players. For example, Darlene is Darlene, but I would also take things from Andreia Faria, Pauletashe enumerates Recordwhile she had told FIFA that she would also like to have the intelligence of Marta, the height of Renard and the agility and power of Selma Bacha. I’m not saying I’m a bit of all of that, of course, but some people say I could be a complete athlete. Fortunately, I find myself in a privileged environment within the club, surrounded by high quality seniors with whom I really want to learn and grow. » Alongside the real star of the Selection, Jéssica Silva, Kika Nazareth are progressing quickly and have already peaked at 14 goals and 6 assists in 22 games in a season cut short by injuries. Back on the pitch for the final game of the season, she leads the celebrations of her second league title, grabbing the microphone to start the chants of supporters. To the general half-surprise of those close to her, who have always known a hard-working and determined girl, but rarely extravagant, or only then in a very private setting. “She is a brilliant and irreverent girl.details his mother. As a child, she used to say she was going to be president. We weren’t sure exactly what she was planning, but the truth is that when she played on her own, she had her own country, her own language and even an anthem…”

Proudly singing those of Benfica and Portugal today at just 20 years old, she nevertheless recognizes without fear that she is still discovering her own discipline. “I think that in Portugal, we had never thought of participating in a Euro. In 2017 I was 15 and I have to be honest I didn’t watch itshe confided to the UEFA website. At that time, I didn’t know much about women’s football. » When she arrives at Benfica, she admits to knowing only one name, that of Matilde Fidalgo, “because she was the most engaged” . Trying to make her own on the English and Portuguese courts, the striker of one meter 68 does not hesitate to give voice to defend this sport which makes her live on a daily basis. “We know that we are role models for little girls and that’s a source of pride. I am from a generation of transition, today we are certainly paid to play football, but we must continue this evolution. I am convinced that if we involve clubs, and not just those with men’s sections, sponsors and FIFA, little girls will be able to dream of playing football, as boys already do. » All without forgetting that she is above all a football player, who wishes “to be the best” and “surround yourself with the best” to take all Portuguese football along in its progress.

By Anna Carreau



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