A very up close and personal interview with the Spanish player, the very same day the OL Reign announced the loan to the powerful Olympique Lyonnais. Celia recalls the efforts she made to balance soccer and her career -Aerospace Engineering- on her way to becoming an icon of the feminist trend in the discipline.
Long before becoming the new reinforcement of Olympique Lyonnais, winner of the past five Champions League editions, and member of the Spanish national team, Celia Jiménez had to make a difficult decision to leave her country to emigrate on a new adventure on the USA.
After having a difficult time trying to grow a career in soccer at Real Jaén and Sevilla, the defender made the determination to pursue another of her dreams: studying Aerospace Engineering.
This decision led her to cross the Atlantic Ocean, landing on the campus of the University of Alabama, an educational institution recognized for its sports programs in different branches. “From a young age it was clear to me that I liked technology and engineering,” recalls the 25-year-old player, when commenting about the beginnings of her passion for the new career she was embarking.
The love discovered in her childhood was not only being nurtured by seeing her mother work as an aeronautical engineer, but also by the mentality she was forming as she grew up. The story of her life, as Celia explains, is based on the abolition of gender barriers imposed by society: “I see something that is labeled “for men only” and it makes me want to try it more. I like breaking stereotypes ”.
“The fact that our society has given it that lable, is just an opportunity for our society to overthrow it, proving that no activity has gender,” she continues, referring the fact only 3 out of the 64 students in her graduating class were women.
This way of facing the challenges life presents is also applicable for her career as a soccer player. At just 14 years old, Jiménez agreed with her mother to commute two hours every day to go training because there were no women’s clubs in her city.
“I have been very fortunate for the support of my family. This aspect of my personality was built on the basis of these experiences, in a healthy, safe environment where I was supported. I think growing up with this idea is what has allowed me to be sure of myself and always want more”, she reflects.
For these reasons, the leap into university competition, and the balance that student-athletes must carry out, not only turned out to be something out of the ordinary for her, but also served as a relief against the pressures of not being able to carry out a normal life as a teen.
“Being so young, I was already competing and sharing looker room with women who were 25-27 years old. Those years in Spain were enriching for that very reason. I had the opportunity to learn some notions and a bit of knowledge that did not correspond to my age”, she analyzes, in terms of how she was prepared to overcome the obstacles she faced at the university.
“That’s why when I arrived in the United States, although the competition changed completely, I had already been living a fairly similar situation, where it seems that the water reaches your neck and you just don’t know what your next would be. I was able to stop worrying about those things and start living like a normal college teenager”.
The containment and spaces generated by the university were key in achieving both of Celia’s objectives. As she points outs, athletes have a plus on campus as they are considered a fundamental part of the educational system, whereas the sports departments encourage and care that their players have good grades, and that the student bodies worry about the good results of the athletic program.
“In Alabama we had our own tutor, a dining room or a private library just for being athletes within the university”, she says. The advantages the institute provided went beyond the sports field: “They have a good aerospace engineering program, with a wind tunnel where they let us put the models of the airplanes to test them”.
When asked about the relationship between her studies and sports, she admits her personality leads her to apply a “procedure of reason and logic” in both aspects of her daily life. Considering herself as a person of numbers and tangible realities, she seeks to differentiate her way of living football from someone who is presumably from Spanish.
“I see it as if I was coding: if the problem can be solved, it will go down a path. If you have no solution, enter another type of division. It is the same when I lose, I try to be honest with myself and make a self-criticism”, denotes about this process, which she considers essential to continue growing as a footballer and a person, as well as when it comes to keeping a cool head when being away from her family.
She maintains the sober tone of engineer even when talking about her references in sports. Marking a difference between athletes and soccer playesr, Jiménez contextualizes her heroines in the world of women’s football as those who “have values, respect and a healthy but competitive spirit.”
“The people who have inspired me are those women with those values, not so much because of the things they achieved, but because of the way they did it. I had the opportunity to team-up with greats ones like Megan Rapinoe, Shirley Cruz and Vero Boquete, all of them who not only shone on the courts, but have also done something for society” .
Finally, the defender talked about the new chapter of her career at Olympique de Lyon, where she arrived on loan from the OL Reign of the North American NWSL. “I am very excited. I think it will be an enriching experience. When you start a new project, it is nice to dream and receive it with open and excited arms, but it is also necessary to be aware of the day to day”.
As for her plans for the future, Celia concludes that it is not possible to put together a list of what is in store for her. “Hopefully there are so many things left to do that I can’t even name them. That’s the best I could dream of “.
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