When Deyna Castellanos speaks – or posts on social media – people listen.
The Florida State soccer star is passionate about her education, career, the sport of soccer and the fight for gender equality.
So when she opened up Twitter on July 17, first typing in Spanish and then a day a later in English, the Venezuelan had plenty to say to her nearly 190,000 followers: Castellanos is returning to FSU for her senior season, planning to graduate and finish up her work toward a journalism degree, and continues a pursuit of a world where women’s soccer is on the same footing as the men’s game.
“It was super positive,” Castellanos said. “They were just so happy that I’m finishing my degree, that I’m finishing school. They know that it is not just about soccer but it is about the personal stuff and the personal growing. For me, being able to be that image for them, it is amazing.”
Castellanos is not only college soccer’s most gifted player, she is one of the best on the globe. A finalist for FIFA Women’s Player of the Year in 2018, she could have gone pro after a junior season in which she had 10 goals, eight assists and helped FSU capture a national title. And those opportunities, she says, have been there for years in Latin America or Europe.
The goal, all along, has been to go to college, earn a degree and play soccer.
“Deyna has been committed to her education since before she got here and she’s had a lot of different opportunities to explore,” FSU coach Mark Krikorian said. “But in the end I think she feels as though right now it’s in her best interest to get the degree and to continue to work and improve here at Florida State before she goes on to the next level.”
Castellanos argued in her series of 10 tweets that her FSU scholarship “provides me with more value than most professional soccer contracts out there. Ridiculous? You bet.”
There is value in going to college. Beyond what’s taught in the classroom and the earning potential it’s the life lessons and friendships made. There are doors that open. Castellanos was able to go to the Women’s World Cup this summer and see a match before flying from France to Miami to work for Telemundo as a broadcaster, an internship experience that she said was “pretty amazing.”
And for Castellanos there is a maturity and wisdom perhaps beyond her years. She is fighting the same fight as the U.S. team has done at the Women’s World Cup, as they explained why they should earn the same amount as the men’s players.
“Women’s soccer is growing,” Castellanos said. “But we need to keep working for at some point (making it) as big as men’s soccer is. At the end, that’s the goal. The goal is equality. Equal payment, equal opportunities. We need to keep working at that.”
Castellanos has a platform – both in Venezuela and in the United States – to continue to push the conversation. She is a star on an FSU roster filled with veterans and her return for 2019 makes the Seminoles an easy preseason No. 1 in the coaches’ poll.
The FSU roster is filled with veterans and also features one of the nation’s top freshmen, Yujie Zhao, from a year ago. There’s also Kristen McFarland and Gabby Carle, who traveled to the Women’s World Cup as part of the Canadian national team.
FSU will open the season on Aug. 22 against TCU and a few days later the Seminoles will be featured as part of the first live game broadcast on the new ACC Network when FSU plays host to Wisconsin on Aug. 25 at 5 p.m. The heat is on a defending champion, yes, but it’s also a welcome spotlight as a new journey begins.
Castellanos could have taken the journey elsewhere, signed a pro contract and nobody would have blinked. Everyone would have understood. But for Castellanos there is much left to accomplish – to live, to learn, to play soccer. And to continue to open eyes to women’s equality.
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