Beauty on the ball
Former Girlz liaison enters Miss Universe Costa Rica to boost women's football
IF you passed her on the busy streets of downtown San José, chances are she wouldn't immediately turn your head in a country teeming with Latin beauties.
Footballer Ana Cecilia Marin is not your typical tomboy, as she mixes her light boyish side with her overpowering feminine qualities for an intoxicating mix of beauty and brains.
Her masculine side readily comes to the fore with her love for and participation as a player in football.
More often than not, she sports the gear even when she's not on the field of play. She even goes to bed in them, less the shoes, of course.
But beneath the masculine garb and swagger lies a striking beauty, which blossomed in the recent past.
Marin, who was liaison officer for Jamaica's Under-17 Reggae Girlz at the CONCACAF World Cup play-offs in Costa Rica in 2010, sought to change perceptions that women footballers in her country are only rough and tough individuals; they possess beauty and brains to boot.
She made her point by entering a beauty contest. Not just some parochial competition, but the Miss Universe Costa Rica pageant, in which she finished fourth out of 10 finalists.
"Well, I saw this as a great opportunity to represent my country one more time (but individually this time), and also show all people that a professional soccer player can also be fashionable and smart at the same time. I wanted to break all those stereotypes surrounding female soccer and beauty contests," Marin told the Sunday Observer from her home in San José.
Marin, 26, believes that the opportunity provided by the contest helped significantly to carry her message far and wide in promoting the women's game in her homeland.
"It is hard to say because women's soccer has not much support here (Costa Rica), but I liked that many TV sports programmes invited me to talk about my experience.
"I love to think I could be seen as an example for all those girls who want to be part of a soccer team, but do not take the chance because of all the stereotypes surrounding this sport. Something I also really love and appreciate is that many other female soccer players have approached me with all kinds of nice and supportive words about me having the courage to show our country how sports, beauty, and intelligence can go hand-in-hand," said Marin.
When the former Costa Rica national striker told her friends and family that she was going to enter the July 2013 contest to prove a point, a few jaws dropped in surprise.
"Firstly, no one could believe that the organisation accepted me because in those contests people are very selective with the participants. I myself could not believe it either since I was the shortest, the soccer player, the hip-hop dancer. It was totally the opposite of what is usually accepted," the 123-lb, 5'6" Marin shared.
Apart from making her statement and scoring points for the women's game in her country, the English translator also learned other lessons on the journey.
"I learned to walk. I learned a lot about make-up, fashion, and different non-profit organisations that are always willing to help people in need, as well (about) as preserving our planet and natural resources," noted Marin.
Even though she finished fourth, as a newcomer in a field of professionals in the world of fashion and beauty, Marin feels like a winner.
"Even though only the first place goes to Miss Universe Costa Rica, I think it was like a breath of fresh air to have someone as unconventional as myself being one of the contestants. My friends told me my strengths in the competition were my walk, my no-stress approach and the most important aspect; my brain," said the footballer.
On the playing side, Marin had to give up her place on the Costa Rica national team because of a new job.
"I had to quit the national team two years ago because I had to start working in a full-time job in order to help my family and develop myself professionally in my area of expertise (English translation)," she told the Observer.
But she still plays for her women's First Division Flores de Heredia.
Marin's passion for football is like a bad habit that's hard to kick. That was evident, as liaison for the Jamaica Under-17 women's team, when she would sometimes train with the Young Girlz.
"I remember everything as if it were yesterday... I have my shirt, pair of shorts, and bag from Jamaica and I wear them to training very often," Marin recalled.
So affected when Jamaica lost their games against Canada and Mexico in that 2010 tournament, the Costa Rican was torn up.
"Yes, it was really sad for me because I could picture all my Jamaican friends suffering because their team lost; there is an interesting connection between me and Jamaica even though I have not been there yet," Marin noted.
Fabianna Granados, who won Miss Universe Costa Rica 2013, will represent her country at the 62nd Miss Universe pageant to be held on November 9, at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow, Russia.