ONE-ON-ONE WITH GISELLE ESPINOZA: U17 WOMEN’S MEXICAN NATIONAL TEAM PLAYER
Giselle Espinoza is making the most of her ECNL career. A member of the Concorde Fire Platinum U17 team, she is one of many ECNL athletes throughout the years that has also had the honor of suiting up for the Women’s Mexican National Team, as she has participated in numerous U17 camps in 2021.
For Hispanic Heritage Month, ECNL’s Communications Manager Jacob Born sat down with Espinoza to talk about playing in the ECNL, what it was like to suit up and represent her country with the Mexican Football Federation, why her Hispanic heritage is important to her, and more.
Jacob Born: How did you get involved in soccer? Why did you fall in love with the sport?
Giselle Espinoza: The way I got involved with soccer was when my cousin started playing soccer. My parents decided to enroll me in the rec league that she was playing in. We were maybe eight years old, and it was just a little league where we would play on Saturdays and Sundays. We wouldn’t even practice, we would just come and play games. Ever since then, I’ve been in love with the sport. I’ve always been passionate about it. As soon as I touched the ball, I knew this was a sport I wanted to play, that this was what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
JB: How did you join Concorde Fire Platinum and enter the ECNL?
GE: I joined Concorde Fire because of the strong program they have and the league they were in, the ECNL. I’ve always wanted to play ECNL because it’s such a competitive level. That’s why I wanted to play for Concorde, because of how competitive the team was and how the league was developing players.
JB: Now you’re playing in ECNL with Concorde Fire Platinum’s U17 team. How has the league helped your development? Do you feel like it’s what you were looking for when you joined the club?
GE: Absolutely, ECNL has always been competitive and that’s what I love about it. It has made me a better player and it’s made my teammates better players. It’s always pushed me. Every weekend we have games and every weekend is a challenge. Every player in ECNL is very talented, and going against talented players is hard. I think that’s a big motivator for me and my team, knowing we’re playing and trying to beat these really talented players.
JB: Speaking of talented players, you were one of the very few players to be selected for the Mexican U17 Women’s National Team. When was your first call-up and how many have you had with the national program?
GE: My first call-up was actually in May of this year. And I’ve been called up four times now. I had a call-up in May, in August, in September, and then I just got called back up recently.
JB: What was it like when you got that first call-up? What was going through your mind?
GE: When that email came through my mom’s phone, oh my gosh, we blew the roof off the house. It was crazy, just the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve worked so hard, just to get noticed by them. And to see that email that says, “We would like to invite you to the U17 Mexico national team,” my heart jumped out of my body and came back in. I was very emotional about it. I was so happy, because everybody started realizing that all my hard work was finally paying off. My dreams of playing and representing Mexico were coming true.
JB: And I imagine those were dreams you’ve had since you were little. When you were finally able to put on that Mexican National Team kit for the first time, how did that feel?
GE: As soon as I put it on, I realized what an honor it was to represent Mexico. I knew ever since I was a little girl that I wanted to represent Mexico. I wanted to represent the roots of my family. And it was the best feeling ever to be able to represent the Mexican badge. Representing Mexico is a dream come true.
JB: What do your roots mean to you? What does it mean to you to be able to share your Hispanic heritage and culture through soccer?
GE: Being Hispanic and being able to represent Mexico is honestly amazing. I would not change anything for it. I love being Hispanic. It makes me different, and I love being able to be unique and being able to say that my family’s from Mexico. I grew up seeing what a beautiful country it is. In Mexico, the cultures and traditions are so different. Everything is different in Mexico from the US. And that’s what I love about it. Hispanic Heritage Month means so much to me because it celebrates the Hispanic culture and its people. I love being able to share and celebrate our culture and traditions with the world.
JB: What does the rest of your soccer career have in store for you? Would you want to represent Mexico on the national stage and play for the national team?
GE: Being able to represent the senior team would be so much to me. I have sacrificed so much to be able to wear that jersey. It would mean the world to just be able to step out on the field for the senior team just represent the country you love. And I want to play professionally as well. I want to continue working and continue to represent my club and country the best I can.
JB: What advice would you give to the next generation, who wants to follow in your footsteps through the Mexican Youth National team?
GE: My message to younger soccer players would be to never give up on anything, to stay focused and to stay focused on your goals, because anything is possible. If you want to accomplish it, and you set your mind to it, you can accomplish anything. I actually had doubters that told me I would never make a national team. That motivated me to push myself even more, and to show them what I really could do with my hard work. So never stop working for anything, because everything is possible. If you want to do it, you can, you just have to put in the work.
JB: If you saw those people today, what would you say to them?
GE: Thank you. You were my biggest motivator. And because of you, I’m here representing Mexico with everything I’ve got. So thank you for pushing me. Thank you for saying that to me. That lit a fire in me and I wanted to show what I could really do.
JB: What about those who have been supportive of you in your life, how have they helped your development?
GE: My coaches have been incredible. Every individual coach that has ever coached me, since I was eight years old, I just want to say thank you for that, and for pushing me to be who I am. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am. And I’m so grateful I have been blessed with so many opportunities. I have been blessed with so many great people that have come into my life and benefited it. They have made me a better player and a better person.
The ECNL is part of that too. It has helped me become the player I am today because of the level it’s at. It’s just amazing what the league has done for its players. I’ve had the chance to play in the ICC Futures game in 2019 because of what I and my team accomplished that year. So the ENCL has been great. There isn’t anywhere else where I’d want to play.
Giselle Espinoza is a great example of the ECNL athlete. She is one of the many players to suit up for their respective youth or senior national teams throughout the ECNL’s history, and that experience and exposure continues to push the game and the league forward. Her story, and those like hers, shows these athletes can accomplish their goals through hard work and dedication, and that those qualities are contagious. Espinoza has raised the league through her international call-ups and bringing those experiences back to her club team, and continues to pave the way for the next generation of Hispanic athletes.