Middle school student takes the field: Alina Restrepo


Photo Courtesy of Esteban Restrepo

Alina Restrepo, saving a goal while playing for Atletico Nacional.

As the crowd cheers and your heart begins to rush. The anxiety takes over your body. You can feel the sense of victory rushing through your veins. The other player is positioning the ball in the penalty spot. You think to yourself, this is it, all my hard work will pay off. Your coach is beside the field and all the players you’ve played along for the last months are surrounding you.. As the ball begins to come your way you’ve hit reality itself, after many training sessions, you are about to win a tournament for Nacional’s soccer team.

At only 14 years old Alina Restrepo, Grade 8, is breaking barriers as a soccer goalie, taking the field as a skilled D1 athlete and defying societal expectations. 

Alina’s Journey

Restrepo’s journey to becoming the athlete and person she is today was no easy road. To earn her spot as the starting player in Club Atlético Nacional and Selección Antioquia, her story goes way back to being the only girl in a boy’s tournament. Along the way, Restrepo always received unconditional support from her family to overcome a lot of obstacles, including finding a balance between her athletic pursuits, social life, and education. In addition, she had to stand up to these challenges in a predominantly sexist society, where women are often judged and poorly misconceived for playing soccer. 

“As far back as I can remember I’ve always wanted to play professional soccer but at the same time achieve a good academic performance, it has been really difficult but as of now, I’ve fulfilled all my expectations and more,” Restrepo said.

Restrepo discovered her love for soccer at a young age by watching games with her father, Esteban Restrepo. She always dreamed of playing on the field herself, and eventually, she got her chance. 

Restrepo’s soccer journey began at La Jaula Del Angel, where she started playing at 9 years old. Since there was no women’s team at the time, Restrepo took her chances and joined the boy’s team, quickly earning her spot as the starting goalkeeper. Her leadership skills and motivation helped the team win multiple trophies like Torneo del Templo del Fútbol, Medellín Soccer Cup, Torneo de Escuelas de La Liga Antioqueña de Fútbol. However, as time passed by and the boys grew older, some institutions began preventing Restrepo from playing in tournaments due to her gender. Despite these setbacks, she fought to change the rules and successfully allowed women to play. 

Eventually, Restrepo wanted to achieve something greater and begin building her own soccer career. She tried out for Las Divisiones Inferiores del Club  Atlético Nacional and was later called in for La Selección Antioquia. Restrepo’s ultimate dream is to earn a sports scholarship to study and play soccer in the United States.   

“Soccer is a big part of my life and I don’t want it to disappear from me. My dream is to reach a professional level and follow in the footsteps of great players who dreamed of the same thing when they were little,” Restrepo said.

Restrepo has always fought for what she desires, even if it implies modifying the rules of a masculine tournament for the sake of participating.

“We also participated in a tournament of the Antioquian soccer league, she being the only female player in the championship, which was incredible, coming out champions on the mythical Marte field in the city of Medellín,” Jaula Del Ángel Coach, said.

A Balanced Life

As a D1 athlete, Restrepos’s routine is highly organized to balance all aspects of her life. Her day typically begins at 7 AM, as she prepares for school. After completing her studies, Restrepo heads to soccer training with El Nacional, from 5 pm to 7 pm. When she returns home, she focuses on her work, spends time with her family, and goes to bed.

On weekends, Restrepo may have practice or tournament games, but she always spends time on activities with her family, such as watching movies or going out to eat. It’s important to note that while this is her typical routine, it can vary based on different factors, such as tournaments that require her to miss school and travel outside Medellin to compete.

Despite the many challenges and changes in her routine, Restrepo has remained dedicated to her education and athletic pursuits. Her ability to maintain this balance is proof of her hard work and commitment to achieving her goals as an athlete, student, friend, sister, and daughter.

“It is definitely very hard to maintain this lifestyle, but the joy that soccer brings to my life is enough to make the difficulties insignificant,” Restrepo said.

Restrepo has always enjoyed attending school and has a very high academic performance, with her favorite topic being math, she also sells cupcakes at school.

“Alina is an orderly, responsible girl. She really likes to cook and she created her own cupcake business, she makes them herself and then sells them,” Maria Alejandra Becerra, Restrepo’s mother said.

Help along the way

The school has supported Restrepo’s sports journey thanks to the HPA special program that the school provides for D1 athletes. For instance, it gives her permission to leave earlier whenever she has training and even excuses her absences during tournaments. In addition, MS Vice Principal James Bandura is always up to date with Restrepo’s tournaments and never misses out on how she’s doing, to ensure that he can then later help her plan ahead.

Her parents have also been of great support for Restrepo’s soccer journey. Especially Esteban, who takes her to tournaments and training sessions. Restrepo sees her father as her first-ever coach, the one who has always been there for her during the good and the bad. 

“We never miss out on her games on  Saturdays and we go to all her national tournaments. Always to make sure she feels safe and supported with love,” Amelia Restrepo, Restrepo´s sister, said.

When Restrepo has important tournaments or needs to skip school, she wakes up at 5 am and dedicates the following two hours to studying, catching up and advancing in future academic tasks.

“Sometimes it is difficult to manage the time between soccer and my academic responsibilities, but my parents and the school are supporting me and helping me to maintain my level in both, I am very grateful for that,” Restrepo said.

“Balance is the key to having a successful life, sometimes it’s hard, and there are good times as well as bad times. But if you’re doing something that motivates you, give it your all and don’t let anything stop you,” Restrepo said.