Photo provided by Maria Jose Rojas.

Maria Jose Rojas Interview on Women’s Soccer United.

Maria Jose Rojas: Qualifying for a World Cup is a dream come true.

Chilean international star Maria Jose Rojas knows how to score goals. Having played in Chile, Germany, United States, Lithuania, Japan and currently Australia, the forward has made a name for herself.

What’s more she has helped her national team, Chile, to qualify for their first World Cup this year scoring two goals during Copa America, the tournament that gave them their ticket for France.

The Canberra United forward knows what it is to play at the top level. She accumulated nine goals at Copa Bicentenario in 2010 with Chile national team and in 2008 she scored 63 goals in 23 matches with her club Universidad de Chile, becoming the Goalscorer of the Year.

Later on she went to Texas University with a Engineer scholarship and she would become a legend there, scoring the goal that gave them their first Championship in that year.

“Cote”, as her friends call her, is currently playing for the W-League in Australia, representing Canberra United. She shares the field with the Matilda Ellie Carpenter and a few months ago Chile upset the Australia Westfield Matildas’ squad in that memorable 3-2 win back in October.

As she prepares for what is going to be the most important tournament for Chile (and herself) in June and July, she agreed to answer some questions for Women’s Soccer United about her career and her hopes and dreams for what’s going to be undoubtedly a great year in women’s football.

Women’s Soccer United: When did you first start playing football?

Maria Jose Rojas: When I was a kid, at 5 years old. And at the age of 13 I started to play for my first club: Universidad de Chile.

WSU: When and how did your career with the national team begin?

Maria: It was in 2005 when the first offical Chilean national team was formed by the ANFP in order to play in the South American Championship in Viña del Mar the following year (2006).

WSU: What do you think has been key for the growth of the game in Chile?

Maria: Although it is true the women’s game is growing in the country, we still have a long way to go. I think the goals we achieved have been key, what we have showed on the field, but the most important thing has been the support we got from the people during Copa America, when we played in sold out stadiums. I think the people has responded in this way because we represent each Chilean out there and their reality. We show grit, hard work and perseverance. And that’s what made many people feel they could identify with women’s football

Women’s Soccer United: What did you feel when Chile beat Argentina in Copa America which awarded you the ticket for the World Cup? Did you think something like this was possible when you were a child?

Maria: I always dreamt of playing in a sold out stadium, specially at home, in front of my people and my family. I think every single footballer out there dreams of qualifying for a World Cup. It was the kind of longing you have for years and you imagine it so many times and so hard that it becomes a reality. It was just a dream come true.

Women’s Soccer United: What do you think of the group Chile got in the World Cup draw?

Maria: It’s a tough group, it’s never easy to face the reigning World Champion. Sweden is the number 9th in the world and Thailand has a better ranking than us as well. But, I think each match will be different and we have to face them one at a time. We are working very hard to get to the World Cup in the best way possible to compete at a high level and win.

Women’s Soccer United: What would you like to change in Chile and South-America in order to be able to comepte head to head with the power houses, such as England or Germany?

Maria: I think the ideal would be have professional leagues where all the players can have contracts and make a living from it. It should be important to change the male chauvinist attitude that exists here, also work with people passionate of women’s football. We should close the gap between men and women. Equality and same conditions!

Women’s Soccer United: Who was your role model when you were a child?

Maria: My dad.

Women’s Soccer United: How did you end up playing for Canberra, in Australia? What can you say about your teammates and the club in the short time you spent there?

Maria: Canberra were following me for some time now until they contacted me to offer me a contract. So I’m happy for the opportunity. Is a great club, very professional with excellent facilities to train. My teammates are pretty cool and very nice people, we get along very well!

Women’s Soccer United: Chile is planning to have a professional league in the short term and to include more teams to the ones the country already has. What do you think Chile is doing well, that other countries like Argentina are not, where their players are being treated with disrespect?

Maria: I think the players have demonstrated and fought to get respected. Sadly, that respect came after years and also the qualification for the World Cup. We still have a long way to go but we are doing good or better than other South-American countries. The Federation is giving us all the support we need to get to the World Cup in the best way possible and they are willing to elevate the standards of the national league to make it professional. I think the federations of each country play a very important role in this; their presidents and the respect they grant us, the players, so each club can see that and copy them. I hope the game keeps growing and that the other countries can put emphasis, give the players respect and develop women’s football.

Women’s Soccer United: Why do yo have the nickname “Cote”?

Maria: In Chile the girls called Maria José are called Cote. It’s a pseudonym.

Women’s Soccer United: How do you see the reality of women’s football in Chile?

Maria: We are improving but we are apart from the reality South America lives in. We still have a long way to go to be where the big power houses are.

Women’s Soccer United: In your opinion, what needs to be done to develop women’s football in your country?

Maria: We need a good foundation, a good development program. A thorough work, not just of one year but of 10 years so we can reach the education, the training and the work an athlete requires to reach their full potential.

Thank you to contributors @melinae07 and Izzy @IzzyWoso

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