The only Costa Rican to be crowned a European club champion, Paris Saint-Germain's Shirley Cruz Traña explains her rise and what her success means in her homeland.
Only one Costa Rican has ever been crowned a European club champion, and on Thursday Shirley Cruz Traña aims to claim her third UEFA title.
Cruz Traña left UCEM Alajuela in her homeland in 2006 for Olympique Lyonnais, and was part of the team that won the 2011 and 2012 UEFA Women's Champions League finals. After the second triumph she linked up with former Lyon coach Farid Benstiti at newly-professional Paris Saint-Germain, and the 29-year-old midfielder is limbering up in Berlin to take on 1. FFC Frankfurt.
Also readying herself for Costa Rica's first FIFA Women's World Cup finals in Canada next month, Cruz Traña spoke to UEFA.com about her route into football and what her success means to her homeland.
On getting into football...
I come from a very big family, there are three boys and three girls. My parents both worked, so my brothers took care of me. I started with football because they took care of me, and I played football with them or went to see them. So I started football with them. I started to play with boys, because there weren't any girls' teams. So it was thanks to my brothers that I started to play football.
I have always liked Steven Gerrard. He started his career at Liverpool and is basically ending his career at Liverpool, although he's ending his career in Los Angeles. But he is just an amazing personality. I would like to be remembered as a happy football player who gave everything for her team.
Difference between women's game in Costa Rica and Europe...
The difference is the financial possibilities. I showed that even a player from Costa Rica, or from Latin America in general, can make it to the standard of European players with hard work. The difference is that I could benefit from the development of [women's] football in France to improve my standard, and show to myself and my country that if you have the necessary support you can reach a good standard and play for a good team.
On playing in the UEFA Women's Champions League...
I made my debut with Lyon, and it was a great experience playing there. They hadn't won the Champions League yet, so we all had the one dream to achieve that. And we were like small girls enjoying and celebrating that victory. They were incredible moments. Now I will play a final with Paris, and they also haven't had the chance to win the Champions League title before, so I would like to help them to win it, as I know how it feels to be the best team in Europe.
On leaving Lyon for Paris in 2012...
There were two reasons. One was the economical/financial aspect. Lyon had made huge efforts already before for me, but they had to cut my salary. And we achieved something historic with the team in France. We won the treble, with the French Cup, domestic league title and Champions League. That was a very important thing. And then when they told me that they had to reduce my salary, the moment came up ... you aspire for more, I had won everything with Lyon, and I wanted to set myself new objectives.
Also at Paris there was Farid [Benstiti, the former Lyon coach], who actually brought me to France. And he told me about the project he had with Paris, and so I came. It was a bit difficult at the beginning, Paris were not as good as at Lyon had been, but step by step a team was built and put together. And now we are in a final, and we hope we can win it with the help of God. And all of this is for Paris to invest more in women's football, so the team can continue play at this high level.
On what her success means for Costa Rican women's football...
When you are successful, when I win a tournament for example, I normally think about all the hard work and effort I have put in every season. I try to tell my team-mates or people in Costa Rica that if you have a dream you need to sacrifice a lot of things, but sooner or later you will see the results. You need to be patient, it can happen at any moment, and any player from Costa Rica or from Central America will get the chance. So you have to be ready and take it. As we are from Latin America we are very bound to family, and it's a big sacrifice to be far away from them, so it's certainly not easy. But you learn a lot, and I've developed a lot on a sporting but also on a personal level.