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Cinthya Peraza leads Santos Laguna to first Liguilla berth by example

Once out of soccer, Peraza has become the club’s captain, leading scorer, and first ever México Women’s National Team player.

Cinthya Peraza of Santos Laguna is one of three players on México that could get their first cap against Argentina. Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

Most times, National Team announcements are made at the beginning of practice. This way everyone on the team can join in as one to react at the news and celebrate together. “That day,” Santos Femenil forward Cinthya Peraza told SB Nation last week via Zoom and translated from the original Spanish, “my call came in the morning, and I was training in the afternoon. They called me from the club that my call-up had come. I was having breakfast at my house, and the truth is that even my hunger was gone.” She wasn’t disappointed however. “It was nice to be at home celebrating by myself and sharing it with my loved ones.”

“The truth is that day was very beautiful,” she continues through a grin. “In the afternoon (at training) the announcement was made to my teammates, and to also see the emotion it elicited in them. It was very satisfactory for me to see how it not only made me happy, but also (how happy it made) my friends, and obviously my family and loved ones.”

Perhaps then it’s fitting that it was her family that helped her get into playing soccer in the first place. Born in Mazatlán, Peraza’s introduction into soccer wasn’t all that uncommon for women her age in Mexico. “I started playing soccer with my brother, practically in the neighborhood. From there, little by little I was on infantiles teams with boys.” Peraza played in high school and in college “where it was a little more serious (and) more competitive.” Liga MX Femenil started after she graduated, however she didn’t immediately try to find a place in the league. “I believed that I was no longer suitable to go and ask for an opportunity (to play).”

She did eventually start looking for opportunities however, and “one day a person close to the club in Mazatlán invited me to Torreón for a tryout and I accepted.” Peraza spent time training with the team and “went through the whole process of... everything necessary to be able to stay in the team.”

Cinthya Peraza of Santos drives the ball during the match between Santos Laguna and Tijuana as part of the Torneo Guard1anes 2020 Liga MX Femenil at Corona Stadium on October 5, 2020 in Torreon, Mexico.
Cinthya Peraza has emerged as a leader for Santos Laguna, setting the example during the team’s ascendence to its first Liguilla in club history.
Photo by Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images

Peraza made her debut at the start of the 2019 Clausura, scoring in her second game against Monarcas Morelia (who would later relocate to her hometown of Mazatlán) and being given the captain’s armband in just her third game with Santos when Brenda López was benched in an away game against Chivas. “The truth is that it was a little bit of a surprise, but the coach (Jorge Macías) in that instance decided it. It was very nice of him to take me into account, and I took it (as a) great responsibility.”

Soccer players are more than just their profession, and during the pandemic shutdown Peraza rediscovered a love of art. “When I was growing up, I discovered a little skill for drawing that I liked it,” she says. Art fell to the wayside as soccer took more of her time. She didn’t do it for “many years, but during the quarantine there was a lot of time for me to invest in it.” She also took up watercolor painting as well, but since soccer restarted her art has been put back on hiatus. “It’s something I really like to do and hope to do it again soon.”

As much as art and soccer are intertwined in the minds of those who watch it, as a footballer and an artist, Peraza doesn’t see many similarities and prefers to enjoy each for what it is. “In football you are active, running all of the time with your heart beating a thousand times, working (with) many emotions in those moments. Here (with art), it’s more passive, more relaxing in that aspect. I think I like that duality.”

On the pitch however, Peraza is anything but passive. “I always give it my best,” she continues. “Whether or not you wear (the captain’s armband), you always have to be an example for everyone. Always work to the maximum. Set a good example for everyone.” Peraza says humbly that she doesn’t think the captaincy is the main reason she’s playing well. “Obviously I’m proud to be able to wear it, but regardless we all have the responsibility to always give our best effort, our 100%, and like I said to set a good example for your teammates.”

Peraza has set the example for her teammates ever since, working hard and seeing the club go from seventeenth out of eighteen in her first season to making the Liguilla for the first time in the club’s history. She’s been there for the bad times as well as the good. “The truth is that it has been complicated,” she tells me when I ask about making the Liguilla after the club’s struggles. “It has touched me to see all of the growth the team has had based on (its) work effort,” she says, while praising Santos for working to make sure that the team’s needs are met. She also points out that in previous seasons the team was working well, but things just didn’t fall into place. “We were not getting the results that we wanted, but we knew that we were on the right path because we could see it in our daily work.”

That hard work and steadiness has paid off. “I think this tournament has been different,” Peraza says. “We have been very convincing, and we are receiving the fruits of all of our work with what we have been doing. The truth is now to enjoy it, but with the maximum commitment to the new stage (Liguilla). (It’s) something new for us, and clearly we are going to enjoy it. But we are committed to the maximum, and our intention is to go as far as possible and not just settle for being in the Liguilla.”

Cinthya Peraza of Santos celebrates with fans after scoring the first goal of her team during the match between Santos Laguna and Cruz Azul as part of the Torneo Grita Mexico A21 Liga MX Femenil at Corona Stadium on August 30, 2021 in Torreon, Mexico.
Peraza is a threat on free kicks, a creative playmaker, and is Santos’ all-time leading goal scorer with 31 career goals heading into the final week of the 2021 Apertura.
Photo by Jos Alvarez/Jam Media/Getty Images

“We are going with everything (we have) to compete,” she says, pausing before adding “We still have some pending games, and we’re going to (give our) maximum, and when the Liguilla arrives we will focus on that,” she says smiling.

Peraza is above all thankful for her time on the pitch and those who support not only her and Santos, but the league as well. She also invites more people to tune in and watch “not just Santos, but the entire league,” she says . “I think every day we start to give better (performances), better work. I invite (everyone) to come back to see (the games), to make us grow as a league.”

She shifts her focus back to Santos, saying that the fans “are the roots, with the young people who follow these athletes and to help them grow. We always give everything on the pitch at 100%, and we hope not to disappoint them. We are doing things very well, and we invite them to follow us as this tournament closes and before the Liguilla, We hope they will enjoy it with us.”