Mariona Caldentey: “I’m crazy about football”

Photo: Germán Parga

INTERVIEWS 04 Mar 2020 - Supporters' Clubs World Confederation

The Mallorcan is a FC Barcelona female player since season 2014/15. She affirms that reaching the top is not complicated, but staying there is. She has been a “culé” her entire life and since childhood is member of the Penya Barcelonista Els Tamarells, which is one of the most populous in the movement with almost 1,500 members. The relationship between the striker and the Penya Barcelonista Els Tamarells from Felanitx is so close that the entity headed the initiative for renaming the local football pitch, for which they gathered over 2,500 signatures. Currently, they play at the “Camp de Futbol Es Torrentó Mariona Caldentey Oliver”.

“Turn everything upside down. Question all axioms. Change the rules”. This text appears on Mariona Caldentey’s Instagram account: Her social media of choice, on which she has over 56,000 followers. Yet despite being just a phrase, it paints perhaps the best picture of this slight, stubborn and cheerful –as she herself admits– player who is part of the backbone of the team and its way of understanding football; today, one of the finest examples of pure Barça DNA. 

“We always want control of the ball. We attack and defend with the ball. It’s our way of understanding football, our language. When Lluis Cortés joined the team, he made it clear; playing this style of football wasn’t an option. It was an obligation. And, the truth is, we have a lot of fun, even though it’s much more difficult than people think. It’s highly complex, and not everyone catches on straight away. Some great players, both female and male, need time to get used to it. But when it clicks, it’s much more fun, and if, like me, you’re also lucky enough to play alongside players born with this DNA, like Alexia and Aitana, everything’s much simpler.”

This year she turns 24. A Spain international, she is a mainstay up front. She wears number 9 and is 1,64 m because football also belongs to those short in stature, as with the Barça team of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi.

“The players I looked up to. It’s not very original, I know, but I just missed out on having female role models. Maybe that’ll change too. Messi’s my idol, as he is for so many people.”

She has never exchanged words with Messi, despite sharing the same club and, at times, the same events and photographs. Although she speaks about it quite shyly, this is not the quality, or defect, that has got her to where she is. In fact, for many girls, getting started in this sport is no easy matter.

“That wasn’t true in my case. I’m pretty lucky. When I was 4, I knew I wanted to play football that I wanted to be a footballer. I grew up playing in the street with my brother and cousin. My dad was my coach, and, at first, as happens to all of us, I was a girl on the boy’s team. The only girl. But I fit right it and was happy.”

Until she was 14, that is, the age at which boys and girls no longer play together. So Mariona signed for UD Collerense in Palma de Mallorca.

“It’s a great club. It used to be in the first division and has an impressive youth system in all categories. That’s where I grew, played and learned. Where I saw that playing first-division football could be possible... And Barça signed me from Collerense. They had been scouting me for a while.” 

It all seems so simple, but I’m sure reaching the elite is no easy task...

“Perhaps more than you might think. Even I’m shocked. The tricky part isn’t getting there, it’s staying there. And I did it. I’m thrilled. I play for my favourite club and I feel important. I’m extremely happy here. And, truth is, I’ve managed to keep a level head. I’m crazy about football.”

Now you’ll tell me you’re a life-long Barça supporter...

“Of course. We all are at home. We’re big Barça fans. My dad was a board member for the Penya Barcelonista Els Tamarells, one of the largest on the island. They do lots of activities, they’re really active, and they recently opened their new headquarters. And I’ve been a member since I was little. I used to go and see the players or former players who’d come, and I’d be spellbound. A year ago they named me honorary member.”

And now I bet you’re the guest of honour...

“Yes, I am. And it’s fantastic. You see that your presence makes people happy, that it brings a smile to the children’s faces. And you remember when you were like them. It’s one of the best things in life. To see so many people, so many children at the stadium, happy... we’re privileged... It’s a recognition of a job well done, and that’s priceless.”

The FC Barcelona women’s team attracts the biggest crowds to the Johan Cruyff Stadium. They are even starting to draw club members to Sant Joan Despí. They are synonymous with fun, goals, good football and an imperious command over the Iberdrola League, which translates into joy, recognition... and pressure for the team.

“Yes. We can’t lose. And we’re not. But despite the differences and scores, it’s no walk in the park. We’re still a long way from men’s football. We’re growing, and everything’s moving very fast. You can’t compare one thing to the other. But there’s still pressure. With Barça, you always have to win. No matter where or who your rival is.”

Despite being young, she has already earned her qualification as a physical education teacher. 

“It’s my calling, and it’s what I want to do in Majorca when I stop playing football. There aren’t any places like my island. Besides, Felanitx now has a women’s team, and that’s really cool”.

In Felanitx, she’s a star. If you look up the town’s famous sons and daughters in Wikipedia, a town with less than 9,000 inhabitants, you find a slew of renowned names such as Guillermo Timoner, six-time world motor-paced cycling champion or the painter and sculptor Miquel Barceló. And Mariona, international goal scorer and author of the best goal in the under-20 World Cup in which she took part. When in her native land, she lives in Porto Colom, with her family. A small town with just over 4,000 inhabitants; a town so peaceful and quiet that it confirms what they say about Majorcans.