Torrey Pines freshman Catarina Macario (left) has 28 goals and six assists this season for the Falcons, who are ranked No. 1 in the San Diego Section.
Catarina Macario was only 4 when she started playing soccer with boys in her hometown of Brasilia, Brazil.
Eight years later, realizing Catarina would no longer be allowed to play with boys, her family was faced with a decision — stay in Brazil, where her promising career might come to an end; or move to the United States, where she would have a chance to flourish.
The Macarios packed their bags and shipped off to the U.S., where Catarina is now a freshman standout for Torrey Pines High.
“We arrived the first of January in 2012,” Catarina’s father, Jose Macario, said in Brazilian Portuguese. “Women’s soccer doesn’t have the same opportunity in Brazil, so we started a new life here (in San Diego).”
Winner of five World Cup titles, the most of any nation, Brazil is often highlighted as one of the top countries for developing soccer talent. Brazil’s success, however, is almost solely focused on helping young boys.
“They don’t really back their women’s soccer,” said Torrey Pines coach Martyn Hansford. “There’s not a lot of avenues for them. There’s some fantastic players, some of the best players in the world like Marta (Vieira da Silva) and some of these girls who’ve almost come out of it in spite of the Brazilian football association.”
Though moving to the U.S. meant that Jose Macario would give up his job and leave behind his wife, who still works as a doctor in Brazil, the decision was Catarina’s to make, her father said.
“In the name of my daughter’s dreams, we are here,” Jose said.
Knowing the circumstances and the gravity of the situation, Catarina welcomed the challenge of living in a new country and is grateful to her parents for their unwavering support.
“I have parents who are willing to sacrifice for me and support me with what I love to do,” she said. “I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Coming to the U.S. was one thing, deciding what soccer club to join and city to live in became a separate issue that required a couple of trips.
“The first time we went to Dallas, the second time we came here,” Catarina said. “Both were great teams and my dad asked me where I would feel more comfortable and I said ‘I think I’m going to like California better.’ ”
Able to speak some English and score goals like few other girls can, Catarina joined the San Diego Surf club at age 12. Two years later, she joined the Torrey Pines varsity, currently ranked No. 5 in the nation by MaxPreps and No. 1 in the San Diego Section with a 19-1-1 record.
Catarina left an instant impression on her new coach — and it had nothing to do with her physical abilities.
“The first thing that struck me about her is that she’s very humble,” Hansford said. “She’s not letting any of the hype go to her head. She’s very coachable. Whenever you’re talking to her, she’s focused on trying to get everything out of it.”
With 28 goals and six assists for the Falcons this season, Catarina has illustrated her talent on the field and silenced anyone who doubted the Macario family’s move to the U.S.
“It’s obviously a sacrifice, but definitely one that’s worth making for her,” Hansford said. “You’re not always in control of your own destiny, but you can certainly put yourself in position to do so and I think that if she keeps her feet on the ground and keeps working at it, then she’s got a chance to go a long way in the game.”