From the land of the most recent world champions, our new ambassador arrives. Meet Natalie Melo, the Colombian-American playmaker that comes to be part of the new women’s team.
Who is Natalie Melo?
“My name is Natalie Melo. I’m 27 years old. I play as a central attacking midfielder. I was born in the United States and was born in New York, more specifically, but my parents are Colombians. I hold dual citizenships. I was playing soccer since I was eight years old and I come from a big soccer family.”
After playing four years for the Lions in the NCAA Division I League and being called up to the US National Youth team a few times, with these experiences, what will you bring to Millonarios? What can Natalie Melo contribute to the team?
“My soccer career has mostly been in the US. I grew up playing in the national youth system. Then, I was recruited to play for four years at Columbia University in the NCAA Division I league. I think I bring several years of experience playing at a highly competitive and fast pace level. It’s something I can bring and contribute to Millonarios.”
What do you consider to be your greatest strength in football?
“My biggest strength in the game would be my technical ability. I was lucky enough to have a dad who was a soccer player and a coach. From an early age, he taught me all the technical skills and abilities that I needed for the game as a central attacking midfielder. On the field, I have a good vision for the game — a good ability to find final through passes and as well to taking advantages of scoring opportunities. My technical ability has allowed me to do these things.”
Besides playing in your preferred position, what other positions can you play?
“My preferred position has always been as a playmaker. I can play any attacking positions. I can play as a forward. More specifically on the right side; cutting to the left side and going in diagonally because I’m left footed. I usually play as a center attacking midfielder or anywhere in the central midfield.”
Who contacted you to join Millonarios, and what did you have to do to join the club?
“I was working in New York City; working for the NBA and FC Barcelona. I decided to chase my dream of playing professional soccer. From there, I started looking for potential clubs to play for. Millonarios was always a club of interest to me. I reached out to them, and they allowed me to try out for the team in January. Luckily, I made it to the team and thanks to all the hard work. The league is about to start, and I’m excited to kick off as a professional soccer player officially.”
“I was always interested in Millonarios. As a Colombian, my parents are the fans of the club, and my family follows the team very closely. Beyond that, my father was also a soccer player and used to play in Millonarios’ youth academy. It’s a club that I’m very passionate about. It’s also a club that is very organized, very professional, and one of the biggest clubs in Colombia. When the opportunity came around, I didn’t think twice. I went for it, and I’m delighted that I did. I’m thrilled with the team, and I’m excited to able to represent the club and this jersey.”
You are one of the three captains of this team for the upcoming season. How was that process? Did your teammates vote for you? Or did the manager chose you? Why do you think you were selected to be one of the three captains for the upcoming season?
“I consider myself someone who tries to lead by example, through discipline, hard work, and perseverance. I feel grateful for this opportunity, but at the same time, I’m aware of the work that entails. Fortunately, I had the chance to be captain of the team in the last game against Atlético Huila, which was a great honor for me!”
What are your aspirations and expectations for this 2019 season with the Ambassadors?
“Our main objective for this season is clearly to become the champions of the league. It’s something we’ve been thinking about for a long time, so in that order, we want to get the title and be able to qualify for the Copa Libertadores.
We know that the league will not be easy since there are 20 great teams, including us, participating. In addition, in this first phase, we will face some very strong (La Equidad, Fortaleza, and Santa Fe), so we have to work hard to reach our goals, but we are confident that we have prepared well and that we are ready to compete to become one of the teams that have a chance to win the league.”
What can Colombia learn from your experience in the United States that can help football become better for women?
“I think the most positive thing that can be left to Colombia is to see the access that women have to play in the United States. Many girls are playing at an early age, and it’s widespread to see them play over there.
Also, in the United States, there are many opportunities through soccer, such as college scholarships or the collegiate league that continues to evolve; it helps a lot for the development of the sport.”
Have you interacted with the men’s team? If so, what did you guys do or talk about?
“Millonarios is a club that has a men’s team with a lot of history, and it is interesting that they now also support the women’s soccer, but at the end of the day we are one club.
We support the men’s team a lot; we even went together to see them at the stadium. The best thing is that we also know that we can count on their support for the women’s team.
This Sunday, we will play in El Campín, just before the men’s team’s game, so, in that sense, we feel very well, and we are very united, together with the organization and working towards the same goal which is winning titles.”
Now putting Millonarios aside, did you have a chance to play with anyone from the United States women’s national team that won the World Cup on Sunday? Like in the training camps that you were called up?
“Yes, in my time in the United States’ youth national team, I had the opportunity to play with several girls who were part of the team that became the champions of the World Cup.
Years ago, I was in the same training camp with Julie Ertz and Crystal Dunn, two key players of the team. Also, through my career, I worked in the United States Soccer Federation, where I met some players such as Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan, who are players that I respect a lot. I congratulate them for the achievement they obtained in France.”
Lastly, what would you say to the girls that look up to their stars and wants to become a professional player? What’s your message or advice for them?
“I would tell all the girls that if they are passionate about soccer, this is a sport with which they will be able to practice at a competitive level, and that can give them many opportunities in life.
I want to motivate them to keep playing and going out to practice with the ball and work hard with discipline, perseverance, and joy. Anything is possible.
Today more than ever, women’s soccer is in a great moment and continues to improve day by day, so I think it’s a sport that they can take as a profession and that if they work hard on it, they can achieve their dreams.”
What would you like the fans to know about this team?
“I would tell the fans that we are a team that will give their 100% effort in every match. We have worked hard for a long time for the league. Support us!
We are a very united team that is motivated, and that has worked very hard to give a good representation with Millionaires, so I invite them to join us for all the matches, whether in the Campín, on social media, or from the television.
Regarding this game for the weekend, we want to invite you guys to attend and support us. We will wait for you guys there!”
The women’s team will continue preparing for the season opener. As Natalie Melo mentioned before, “we have worked hard for a long time for the league, and we are a team that will give their 100% effort in every match.” The fans are eager to experience a historical moment of the club’s history. We want to wish the very best for the women’s team for the upcoming season.
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