Last season was a breakout season for Santos Femenil forward Estela Gómez. While appearing in 14 games last season, she only accumulated 731 minutes. Gómez still managed to score five goals, which lead the team.
But don’t call her Estela.
“I left my town and went to work in Pachuca,” she told FMF State of Mind earlier this week. Pachuca is about two hours south of Metztitlán where she was born. “I knew that there were women’s soccer teams, and I wanted to enter one.” She and some older sisters in Pachuca looked in a newspaper, found a tournament, and contacted the organizer of the tournament. “They gave me the invitation and told me to come.” She admits to being nervous but it was in that tournament that she gained her nickname. “I liked to watch Enrique Esqueda play. At that time I was playing (on a team called) América and so for him I (went by) Paleta. Now many people know me by Paleta and not by my name.”
Paleta got her professional start with Puebla in the 2018 Apertura. That season, Puebla went 6W 7D 3L and just missed out on a Liguilla spot. She played 319 minutes across nine games that season before heading to Morelia the following season. There’s where she first started to shine, starting 12 games and scoring three goals in her 1020 minutes. She then went to Santos, where she’s been ever since.
This season has been tough, as a change in head coach has precipitated a change in formation that has seen her minutes drop. With the team going from a 4-3-1-2 with Gómez and Joseline Hernández playing above Cinthya Peraza to a more conventional 4-4-2 with Peraza moving from a central attacking midfielder role to more of a second striker with Hernández, Gómez’ has seen her average minutes drop from just over 52 minutes per appearance last season to just over 38 minutes. Her outlook however is a mature one, balancing her hunger to achieve her personal goals with the goals of the team as a whole.
“We didn’t start well (this season), and as a professional player one always tries to get to the Liguilla or more, to fight for a title. What I want to achieve equally is to have more activity and to score more goals than last season and help my team to follow, adding up and get to the objective to get in the Liguilla.”
It’ll be a tough ask. Santos sits at the bottom of the table with just two points out of nine games. They’re eleven points out of a Liguilla spot, and eighth place León has a game in hand. That’s a lot of ground to make up over eight games, especially against teams like Tigres and Monterrey. But Santos isn’t afraid of a fight.
“Maybe we haven’t given the results,” she says, “but we always give our best. We carry the colors with a lot of pride and always we defend to the death.” She and her teammates also know it’s about more than just them. “(Tell them) to follow and help women’s soccer, because for us it’s very important.”
“Tournament after tournament,” it becomes more demanding, she says. “The level (of play) is increasing since It’s not just in Mexico they follow Liga MX Femenil, if not always in other parts of the world, and that is good because we know that this will grow the league.”